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Biomass to diesel conversion tech trialled in Austrian plant

OMV and BDI open ‘BioCRACK’ pilot plant in Schwechat refinery to convert solid biomass into diesel

The plant will produce diesel from biomass

A pilot plant has opened in an Austrian refinery to trial innovative biomass conversion technology. The plant, ‘BioCRACK’, at the OMV Refinery in Schwechat, Austria, is the first of its kind to use the technology, which converts solid biomass, such as wood chips and other agricultural waste products, directly into diesel.

BioCRACK is a joint project between Austrian industrial company OMV Aktiengesellschaft and technology firm BDI-BioEnergy International.

Edgar Ahn, board member of BDI, said: “From the start of the project, the objective was to develop a technically simple, cost-effective and, on a small scale, profitable process that fulfills two basic tasks – to produce diesel and to raise the biogenic share.”

The patented process, which BDI has developed, produces diesel by heating the biomass with heavy oil to over 400°C. BDI said an advantage of the technology is that the biomass used does not compete with food resources, as it comes from agricultural waste products such as wood chips or straw. The company said diesel produced in this way has fewer CO2 emissions.

Gerhard Roiss, OMV CEO, said: “The European fuel market faces considerable challenges: it must meet the growing demand for diesel and raise the renewable energy share in the transport fuel sector to at least 10 per cent by 2020. Conventional first-generation biofuels are not a long-term solution because the cultivation of the necessary raw materials competes with food production. Our refineries are well positioned and the BioCRACK technology that was developed in partnership with BDI is a further response from OMV to the changing conditions.”

BDI said the useful byproducts of the BioCRACK technology offer a further advantage; byproducts such as biogas and biocoal can be used energetically or converted into high quality products through further processing.

The BioCRACK technology will be tested at the refinery in Schwechat, and is expected to reach market maturity by mid 2014.