A mere “The Year in Rewind” as we reach the end of 2014? Not the intrepidSS Digest! Instead, we dust off our crystal ball and peer into tomorrowland.
As the sunset of 2014 gives way to the dawn of 2015, here at the Digest we resist the holiday temptation to look back over the challenges and highlights of the year gone by, and instead once again roll the dice as we list the Digest’s 10 Top Predictions for 2015.
1. The Year of Supercritical, and thermal conversion.
We’ve been hearing more and more about dissolving biomass, either to extract sugars or to extract an intermediate which can be used to make drop-in fuels. Renmatix has been a leader in supercritical, with a focus on C5 and C6 sugar production. Shell has discussed its RAPT and APTC technologies (, the latter is a two-step process in which the second step is, essentially, the Virent process). Meanwhile, Shell’s catalyst company, CRI, has taken the world-wide license for IH2 technology — a catalytic thermochemical process that has been estimated to provide a very cost-effective route, ~$2.00/gallon in 2012 dollars at 2000mt dry feed/day scale, to produce fungible liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels from renewable resources. To complete the picture, the DOE has identified a Algal Hydrothermal Liquefaction Pathway (AHTL)as a technology path of choice as it pursues algal biofuels, writing “Algal Hydrothermal Liquefaction is a pathway model for conversion of whole algae, rather than the extracted lipids, to fuel and other products. Dewatered algae (20 wt% on an ash-free basis) is pumped to the HTL reactor. Condensed phase liquefaction then takes place through the effects of time, heat and pressure. The resulting AHTL products (oil, solid, aqueous, gas) are separated, and the AHTL oil is hydrotreated to form diesel and some naphtha-range fuels. The AHTL aqueous phase is catalytically treated to recover the carbon content and allow water recycle back to the ponds.”