Chevron, GA Tech to research biofuel applications
Jun 16, 2006 11:22 AM
Chevron Corporation, San Ramon CA, and the Georgia Institute of Technology have formed a strategic research alliance to pursue advanced technology aimed at making cellulosic biofuels and hydrogen viable transportation fuels.
Chevron Technology Ventures, a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, plans to collaborate with Georgia Tech's Strategic Energy Institute and contribute up to $12 million over five years for the project, which will focus on the production of transportation fuels from renewable resources such as forest and agricultural waste. Chevron said the effort is an important advancement over first-generation biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, which are made from agricultural crops such as corn, sugarcane and soybeans.
The alliance will focus its research on four areas: production of cellulosic biofuels, understanding the characteristics of biofuel feedstocks, developing regenerative sorbents and improving sorbents used to produce high- purity hydrogen. During hydrogen production, sorbent materials are used to remove gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.
Researchers will develop processes to directly convert biomass, such as wood or switchgrass, into hydrogen or hydrocarbon transportation fuels. The study will help researchers determine the feasibility of producing commercial volumes of cellulosic biofuels or hydrogen from biomass and also understand the conditions needed for large-scale production facilities.
Another focus area will be to understand the characteristics of biofuels produced from different feedstocks and their effects on biofuel production processes. Defining the properties of various biofuels will help in the design of equipment and procedures to accommodate different feedstocks.
Sorbents are used in hydrogen production from natural gas to remove odorants that contain sulfur. They are usually costly and can be used only once. Scientists from Chevron and Georgia Tech are working to develop regenerative sorbents that can be used repeatedly, thereby reducing the cost of hydrogen production from natural gas.
In a related project, researchers are working to develop sorbents for the purification of hydrogen produced from natural gas reforming. Both hydrogen performance and vehicle performance increase with sorbent performance, leading to greater overall energy efficiency.
In addition to the advanced research that the Georgia Tech initiative will conduct, Chevron is making significant investments in conventional biofuels. The company recently formed a biofuels business unit to advance technology and pursue commercial opportunities related to the production and distribution of biofuels in the United States. Chevron also recently invested in a new biodiesel facility in Galveston TX that will produce diesel fuel from soybeans and other renewable feedstocks.
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