April 2008

New Fuel Solutions on the Horizon at FSEC

Photo of man in grain field.
Biomass, such as grass, can be used to produce synthetic liquid fuel — bio-gasoline.
(Photo: National Renewable Energy Laboratory )

Researchers at the Florida Solar Energy Center will begin work shortly on the development and testing of a new process to produce clean-burning liquid fuels from biomass resources in Florida. The fuel-production process itself is not a new technology, but the adaptations FSEC has made to it are groundbreaking. In a process that is commonly used for converting coal and natural gas into liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel, FSEC will use biomass such as agricultural waste, crop residue, grasses, and landfill gas to produce synthetic liquid fuel – bio-gasoline – with minimal environmental impact.

The three main goals of this project are to demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of the technology developed at FSEC, determine the level of performance of the bio-fuels produced through this process, and gauge their potential as substitutes for every-day, petroleum-based liquid fuels. This project is the first of its kind to adapt the specific synthesis technologies, originally developed for making coal-derived liquid hydrocarbons, for converting biomass feedstock to gasoline and diesel range fuels.

Successful implementation of this technology would provide farmers with new uses and markets for their waste and surplus farm products, which could be converted into liquid transportation fuels. This FSEC-developed process could also produce a useful carbon byproduct that can be used to improve soil productivity. The project will ensure diversification of farm products, and further enhance the role of biomass as a source of fuels and fertilizers.