BJRP 011005

Fuels production via biomass (algae) gasification using solar energy


This project is aimed at developing the science & technology for converting algae biomass into CO2-neutral fuels for power and transportation. After the cultivation of micro algae in a continuous reactor, the wet biomass will be converted into high-quality syngas (CO+H2) by thermochemical gasification, using concentrated solar energy as the source of high-temperature process heat. Syngas can be used to fuel efficient combined Rankine-Brayton cycles for power generation or it can be further processed via conventional Fischer-Tropsch synthesis to liquid fuels (e.g. gasoline, diesel, methanol, jet fuel). The key advantages of solar-driven gasification vis-à-vis conventional autothermal gasification are:

1)  higher energetic value of the syngas produced; i.e. higher syngas output per unit of feedstock, as the calorific value of the feedstock is upgraded by the solar energy input in an amount equal to the enthalpy change of the reaction.
2)  higher quality of the syngas produced, especially in terms of the low CO2/CO molar ratio, as no syngas contamination by combustion byproducts occurs;
3)  elimination of the air-separation system needed for supplying a pure oxygen stream in the autothermal gasification.

Reactor and process modeling will be undertaken by both institutions. The micro algae production pilot plant will be built in Brazil at the University of São Paulo (USP) and Natal (Northeast of Brazil at Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte UFRN).A laboratory solar reactor prototype will be designed and fabricated by both Brazilian and Swiss partners. Reactor testing with concentrated solar energy will be carried out at the High-Flux Solar Simulator of ETH Zurich. The solar reactor technology will be developed, comprising: design, fabrication, testing, modeling, and optimization for maximum solar-to-fuel energy conversion efficiency.