As a response to the global requirement for renewable transportation fuels that are economically viable and fungible with existing petroleum infrastructure, Steeper Energy is commercializing its proprietary hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) technology as a potential path to sustainable lignocellulosic-derived transport fuels. Hydrofaction™ utilizes high-density, supercritical water chemistry at distinctly higher pressures and temperatures than most literature on HTL. The paper presents a direct relation between density and the chemical properties that make near-critical water an appealing HTL reaction medium. Further, the fundamentals of Hydrofaction™ and how these are carefully chosen to favor certain chemical reaction paths are explained, including the use of high-density supercritical water, homogenous alkaline metal catalysts at alkaline conditions and recycling of aqueous and oil products. Steady state operational data from a campaign producing 1 barrel (>150 kg) of oil at a dedicated pilot plant is presented, including closure of mass, energy, and three elemental balances. A detailed oil assay specifying the oil quality as well as mass and energy recoveries from wood to oil of 45.3 wt.% and 85.6%, respectively, reflect that Hydrofaction™ is an energy-efficient technology for sourcing renewable biofuels in tangible volumes.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
US EIA (2016) Short-term energy outlook. Technical report by U.S. Energy Information Administration. https://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/global_oil.cfm.
Ackert S (2013) Aircraft payload-range analysis for financiers. Technical report by Aircraft Monitor.
Karatzos S, McMillan JD, Saddler JN (2014) The potential and challenges of drop-in biofuels. Report for IEA Bioenergy Task 39
Tews IJ, Zhu Y, Drennan CV, Elliott DC, Snowden-swan LJ, Onarheim K, Solantausta Y, Beckman D (2014) Biomass direct liquefaction options: technoeconomic and life cycle assessment. Technical report 25379 by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Peterson AA, Vogel F, Lachance RP, Fröling M, Antal MJ Jr, Tester JW (2008) Thermochemical biofuel production in hydrothermal media: a review of sub- and supercritical water technologies. Energy Environ Sci 1:32–65
Xue Y, Chen H, Zhao W et al (2016) A review on the operating conditions of producing bio-oil from hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass. Int J Energy Res 40(7):865–877
Harvey AH, Peskin AP, Klein SA (2013) NIST/ASME Steam Properties Database, software version 3.0. Standard Reference Database, NIST.
Zheng J-L, Zhu M-Q, Wu H-t (2015) Alkaline hydrothermal liquefaction of swine carcasses to bio-oil. Waste Manag 43:230–238
Toor SS, Rosendahl LA, Hoffmann J, et al. (2014) Chapter 9, Hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass, 189–217. Book by Springer: Jin F (ed) Application of hydrothermal reactions to biomass conversion, ISBN 9783642544576.
Iversen SB (2015) Process and apparatus for producing liquid hydrocarbon. Patent WO2012/167794, issued 21 Apr 2015.
Akiya N, Savage PE (2002) Roles of water for chemical reactions in high-temperature water. Chem Rev 102:2725–2750
Kruse A, Dinjus E (2007) Hot compressed water as reaction medium and reactant properties and synthesis reactions. J Supercrit Fluid 39:362–380
Rutin SB, Skripov PV (2016) Controlled high-power heat release as a tool to selecting working pressure for supercritical water. J Eng Thermophys 25(2):166–173
Fang Z, Sato T, Smith RL et al (2008) Reaction chemistry and phase behavior of lignin in high-temperature and supercritical water. Bioresour Technol 99:3424–3430
Roberts VM, Knapp RT, Li X, Lercher JA (2010) Selective hydrolysis of diphenyl ether in supercritical water catalyzed by alkaline carbonates. Chem Cat Chem 2:1407–1410
Eisentraut A (2010) Sustainable production of second-generation biofuels: potential and perspectives in major economies and developing countries. Technical report by IEA
Okuda K, Man X, Umetsu M et al (2004) Efficient conversion of lignin into single chemical species by solvothermal reaction in water–p-cresol solvent. J. Of physics. Condens Matter 16:S1325–S1330
Saisu M, Sato T, Watanabe M et al (2003) Conversion of lignin with supercritical water-phenol mixtures. Energy Fuel 17:922–928
Deguchi S, Tsujii K, Horikoshi K (2006) Cooking cellulose in hot and compressed water. Chem Commu 31:3293–3295
Bali G, Meng X, Deneff JI et al (2015) The effect of alkaline pretreatment methods on cellulose structure and accessibility. Chem Sus Chem 8(2):275–279
Klemn D, Philipp B, Heinze T, Heinze U, Wagenknecht W (1998) Comprehensive cellulose chemistry. In: Fundamentals and analytical methods, vol Vol. 1. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim ISBN 9783527294138
Sjöström E (1993) Wood chemistry: fundamentals and applications, 2nd edn. Academic press, San Diego ISBN 9780080925899
Phyllis2 ECN (2012) Database for biomass and waste. Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands. https://www.ecn.nl/phyllis2/. Accessed 20 Oct 2016
Evert RF, Eichhorn SE (2006) Esau’s plant anatomy: meristems, cells, and tissues of the plant body: their structure, function, and development, 3rd edn. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken
Pedersen T H, Hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass and model compounds. PhD thesis (2016), Aalborg Universitetsforlag, DK, ISBN 9788771124972
Iversen SB (2011) Process and apparatus for producing liquid hydrocarbon. Patent application WO2012/167789, filed 10 Jun 2011
Matsumura Y, Sasaki M, Okuda K et al (2006) Supercritical water treatment of biomass for energy and material recovery. Combust Sci Technol 178:509–536
Sasaki M, Fang Z, Fukushima Y et al (2000) Dissolution and hydrolysis of cellulose in subcritical and supercritical water. Ind Eng Chem Res 39:2883–2890
Davis H, Figueroa C, Schaleger L (1982) Hydrogen or carbon monoxide in the liquefaction of biomass. Paper submitted for the World Hydrogen Energy Conference IV, Pasadena, Ca, US, 13–17 June 1982
He BJ, Zhang, Y, Yin Y, Funk TL, Riskowski GL (2001) Effects of alternative process gases on the thermochemical conversion process of swine manure. Trans ASAE 44, 6, 1873–1880
Gary JH, Handwerk GE, Kaiser MJ (2007) Petroleum refining: technology and economics, 5th edn. Book by CRC press, ISBN 9780849370380.
Kruse A (2011) Behandlung von Biomasse mit überkritischem Wasser. Chem Ing Tech 83(9):1381–1389
Pedersen TH et al (2016) Continuous hydrothermal co-liquefaction of aspen wood and glycerol with water phase recirculation. Appl Energy 162:1034–1041
Iversen SB (2015) Improved method for preparing shut down of process and equipment for producing liquid hydrocarbons. Patent WO2014/032669, issued 22 Dec 2015.
Iversen SB (2014) Pressure reduction device and method. Patent application WO2014/181283, filed 08 May 2014.
The authors are thankful for the collaboration with Professor Lasse A. Rosendahl, Aalborg University, Denmark, and the funding provided by EASME Horizon 2020 (Grant No. 666712), Danish Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (Grant No. 64013-0513), and Innovation Fund Denmark (Grant No. 4135-00126B).
About this article
Cite this article
Jensen, C.U., Rodriguez Guerrero, J.K., Karatzos, S. et al. Fundamentals of Hydrofaction™: Renewable crude oil from woody biomass. Biomass Conv. Bioref. 7, 495–509 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13399-017-0248-8
- Hydrothermal liquefaction
- Supercritical water
- Renewable oil