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NREL and Johnson Matthey announce five-year collaboration on biofuels

14 December 2012

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced it will partner with Johnson Matthey in a five-year, $7 million project to produce drop-in gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from non-food biomass feedstocks. The work will be conducted under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between NREL and Johnson Matthey.

Johnson Matthey, a supplier of catalysts for a range of environmental and chemical applications, will develop new catalytic materials to upgrade pyrolysis vapors to biofuel components, with the goal to find catalytic systems that can produce biofuels cost effectively at scale. NREL, who has been active in biomass conversion research, will be conducting the necessary testing, from bench to pilot scale.

The non-food derived feedstocks used to produce the biofuels will vary from fast-growing poplar or pine trees to switch grass, forest and agriculture residue and municipal solid waste.

The vapor produced from the pyrolysis of biomass can be used to make transportation fuel, if industry can efficiently convert it into the hydrocarbons similar to petroleum-based fuels used in modern engines, said NREL. Pyrolysis involves thermally decomposing organic materials using heat and pressure in the absence of oxygen. This CRADA aims to develop catalytic materials that can convert the pyrolysis vapors into liquid fuels that can be use in cars, trucks, train engines and jets.

Currently, NREL has 184 active CRADAs with industry, the most of any national laboratory.

Source: NREL