Argonne to develop pipeline-ready biofuels

By Nicholas Zeman | January 19, 2010
Posted February 3, 2010

After being named as a multi-million dollar recipient of U.S. DOE's latest round of research handouts, certain scientists at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., aren't focused on algae oil extraction or making jet fuel.

Instead, Seth Snyder, biochemical engineer for Argonne, told Biodiesel Magazine that it's focusing on ways to make bio-based diesel "molecules" that are compatible with the existing fuel infrastructure in the United States. "Esterified molecules, like the ones in biodiesel, are [hygroscopic], which doesn't work for pipeline transport," Snyder said. "We are working to develop molecules that are more similar to actual diesel fuel-hydrocarbons-yet made from the same biologically based sources."

Argonne is a part of the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, led by NREL, whose sole purpose is to "develop infrastructure-compatible, biomass-based hydrocarbon fuels."

Fuels made with catalysts such as sodium methylate, used by biodiesel producers to convert bio-based oils into B100, can cause blending problems with standard petroleum fuels, Argonne said. "We're going way past sodium hydroxide," Snyder said. "If we can make fuel that does not consist of caustic bonds it will be a more direct diesel replacement, meaning that fuel wholesalers can base their purchases of biofuels on the competitive market and not on blend levels. B5 and E10 cannot achieve the goals set by the United States for renewable fuels usage."

Snyder added that the incompatibility of biofuels with current fuel infrastructure "hurts the economics" and that Argonne will be announcing "pathways" for the production of pipeline-ready biofuels within the next few weeks.
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