Robust Engineered Catalysts for the Conversion of Algae and Waste Oleaginous Biomass Feedstocks to Fuel-like Hydrocarbons via Decarboxylation/Decarbonylation

Grants and Contracts Details


Decarboxylation/decarbonylation offers several advantages to hydrodeoxygenation (HDO), the main reaction used in the hydroprocessing of esters and fatty acids (HEFA), one of the most mature pathways to convert biomass to fuel-like hydrocarbons. Among the advantages, the ability of deCOx to upgrade waste and algal bioresources is noteworthy. Although oleaginous biomass utilization is typically considered a niche application because current upgrading technology (biodiesel synthesis and/or HEFA) requires a scarce and costly high-quality feedstock, deCOx technology can upgrade waste and algal feeds that are both inexpensive and abundant. HEFA is one of the most mature routes to convert biomass to fuel-like hydrocarbons, the catalysts currently employed display some key shortcomings, as they are very susceptible to impurities in the feed and require very stringent feed specifications (in terms of water, FFAs, etc.), which limits the use of wet and/or waste feeds. Thus, catalyst stability, durability, recyclability, and overall robustness are challenges to be overcome to enable the conversion of algae and waste oleaginous biomass feedstock to fuel-like hydrocarbons. The project will involve a partner with whom catalyst development efforts will yield a form of the pelletized powder formulation that is more relevant to industrial applications. The engineered catalysts will be tested using a real biomass stream in runs lasting at least 500 continuous hours with no more than 2 on-stream regenerations. Thorough characterization of the engineered catalyst at representative points in the process – i.e., before and after regeneration as well as at the end of the run – will inform computational work designed to understand the deactivation mechanism, which will in turn inform further catalyst development. Ultimately, this project will result in an engineered catalyst that achieves the robustness and performance targets in the conversion of waste biomass to fuel-like hydrocarbons. While previous National Science Foundation funding has been instrumental in the development and fundamental study of the deCOx catalysts and processes to be leveraged in this project, EERE funding would allow for this technology to be further developed and advanced along the path towards commercialization. Indeed, the involvement of two industrial partners in the project in general – and in the assessment of resource metrics and techno-economic analysis in particular – will de-risk this cost-competitive and environmentally friendly deCOx-based pathway to convert inexpensive waste feeds to fuel-like hydrocarbons. In turn, this pathway will help the HEFA route to RD and Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) overcome key market barriers and transform this technology in a way that industry by itself has been reluctant to do due to technical and financial uncertainties. In so doing, this project will ultimately help increase both employment and industrial production.
Effective start/end date9/1/238/31/25


  • Department of Energy: $800,452.00


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