First Ever Second-Generation Biofuel Plant Opens in Germany

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
first ever second generation biofuel plant opens in germany

Find something bad to say about biofuels, and its defenders will likely simply point to second-generation biofuels as the way forward. The problem has been that nobody has actually been commercially producing a second-generation biofuel based on biomass instead of food-grade grains and oils. Until now, that is. Auto Motor und Sport reports that Choren, a joint venture of Shell, Daimler and Volkswagen, has opened the worlds first biomass-to-liquid (BTL) fuel plant in Freiberg, Germany. It will be a few months before the first drops of BTL diesel hit the market, but once production ramps up the plant will pump out 4.75m gallons of the fuel every year. Choren's BTL process involves relatively dry (10-15 percent moisture) biomass which is gasified under high heat and then liquified (biofuel wonks can check out more details at Green Car Congress), extracting a diesel fuel. The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Heidelberg reckons that although the BTL fuel is net beneficial when compared to Soy or Rapeseed-based biodiesel, there are emerging technologies which could better utilize the biomass used in the BTL process. The German Minister of Industry likewise warns that while production costs are low when making small batches using straw and forest waste, further research is needed to better understand the impacts of broad proliferation of the biofuel. At least it won't raise the price of beer!

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  • Akitadog Akitadog on Apr 17, 2008

    So what is it that companies like Changing World Technologies do? Is it not second-gen biofuels? They take organic waste and convert it into diesel fuel, fertilizer and other substances with industrial applications. They've been around for a few years now.

  • Engineer Engineer on Apr 17, 2008

    akitadog, You are right CWT does something similar. CWT's technology is good enough to put biodiesel producers out of business. However, as explained here, CWT (like biodiesel) can only convert lipids (fats and oils in English) into fuel. That's great when you're next to a Turkey slaughterhouse, but in general the feedstock is limited. Choren can handle all kinds of biomass, including cellulose. Cellulose is considered the holy grail of biofuels because there is so much of it AND it is so difficult to convert into liquid fuels.

  • Rtz Rtz on Apr 17, 2008

    How about some synthetic diesel?

  • Engineer Engineer on Apr 18, 2008
    rtz : April 17th, 2008 at 11:34 pm How about some synthetic diesel? CHOREN uses the exact same technology (gasification to produce syngas followed by Fischer-Tropsch, which converts the syngas into renewable/green diesel). Range Fuels uses a slightly different variation: gasification followed by alcoholization. Alcoholization is apparently a variation of methanolization, a process that is used to produce methanol out of syngas. Methanolization is apparently more efficient than Fischer-Tropsch, but... We'll see. Stay tuned.