Hydrofaction® Oil Can Be Upgraded to Advanced Biofuels Compliant with Industry Specifications

Hydrofaction® Oil is of high quality containing 81% carbon, 9% hydrogen and 10% or less oxygen. The high carbon and hydrogen content makes Hydrofaction® Oil particularly energy dense and distinguishes it from other types of biomass-derived oils. Direct uses for Hydrofaction® Oil include replacing fossil-based heating fuels or directly as green marine fuel—in either case substantially improving carbon intensity of these applications. Further, Hydrofaction® Oil can be processed into Advanced Biofuels meeting the higher specifications associated with gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuels. This secondary processing phase is Upgrading and Refining.

Approaches exist to further upgrade Hydrofaction® Oil into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel however the unique attributes of Hydrofaction® Oil required Steeper Energy to research and confirm these pathways. They encompass techniques familiar in conventional oil refining operations, such as hydrocracking (use of hydrogen under pressure to break heavier chain hydrocarbons into lighter, higher-value chains), hydrotreating (use of hydrogen to remove undesirable heteroatoms such as oxygen, nitrogen, and sulphur), and finally fractional distillation (separating fuel liquid streams into individual fuel types). These upgrading operations can be performed economically at the back-end of a Hydrofaction® plant or performed independently at an existing, local or regional oil refinery subject to confirming its capability to process Hydrofaction® Oil.  When upgrading Hydrofaction® Oil at existing oil refineries, it can be blended and co-processed with other incoming fossil oil streams, or stand-alone upgrading can occur in dedicated reactor vessels. These various upgrading pathways are depicted in the graphic below:

upgrading to finished fuel
Hydrofaction® Oil Pathways To Market

Steeper has invested significant resources in evaluating and demonstrating Hydrofaction® Oil upgrading pathways. The company has set up the Advanced Biofuels Center (ABC) in Calgary, Canada. The ABC has accelerated the commercial validation of the required upgrading techniques with a particular focus on:

  • Strategies for removing the undesirable heteroatoms, oxygen, sulfur, and nitrogen, from Hydrofaction® Oils using standard oil refining approaches.
  • Co-processing (blending) Hydrofaction® products with fossil oil streams, as would occur in an established refinery setting.
  • Identifying and testing in-situ hydrogen production methods that are performed during the Hydrofaction® stage, to minimise the demand for external hydrogen for the upgrading operations.
  • Characterizing unique biocrude oils made under different operating conditions and from various feedstocks.
  • Reviewing the stability of different biocrude oils by performing aging tests.
  • Identifying and extracting value-added products from Hydrofaction® Oil such as bio-chemicals.
  • Overall, optimizing Hydrofaction® Oil upgrading pathways to advanced biofuels with a particular focus on maximizing marine, diesel and jet fuel yields.

Upgrading to Advanced Biofuels

Various co-processing and stand-alone upgrading strategies have been evaluated during extended duration, continuous tests at the ABC laboratory. Different process parameters, reactor configurations, catalyst types and activation protocols have been reviewed. Tests have proven that Hydrofaction® Oil is fully upgradable.

Hydrogen generated as a by-product during the core Hydrofaction® process can be used to partially upgrade the Hydrofaction® Oil. This partially-upgraded Hydrofaction® Oil can then be blended and co-processed with fossil oil streams at existing refineries, or alternatively, the oil can be fully upgraded to its own drop-in renewable fuel types in dedicated stand-alone refineries.

Steeper has successfully upgraded Hydrofaction® Oil and blended it with RGM180 marine fuel in concentrations up to 62 vol% while maintaining compliance with the ISO8271 (2012) specification. Fractions of refined Hydrofaction® Oil in the diesel boiling point range have successfully been blended at 60 vol% with fossil diesel while maintaining compliance with the EN590 (2013) specification.

Steeper’s intellectual property includes using both commercial or novel catalysts following well-known hydroprocessing techniques. This facilitates the use of existing, commercial upgrading facilities. Other parts of Steeper’s development efforts around upgrading include: process integration opportunities, LCA analysis and economic viability assessments.

Hydrofaction® creates a Pathway to Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)

The global airline industry has embraced the goal of decarbonizing its sector.  Fully upgraded Hydrofaction® Oil made from abundant biomass waste sources creates the opportunity to dramatically increase the volume of SAF available to the industry. Working directly with airlines or with their fuel suppliers is a way to proliferate these projects.