BioSFerA Project: A successful project implementation towards the deployment of Biomass-to-Liquid (BtL) technologies

Summer 2024

BioSFerA is a Horizon 2020 research and innovation project that introduces an alternative Biomassto- Liquid (BtL) concept for the production of sustainable aviation and marine biofuels based on the gasification of biogenic residues/ wastes.
In particular, a fuel synthesis scheme based on the double-stage fermentation of the produced syngas (syngas → acetic acid → microbial oil) is assessed instead of the conventional Fischer-Tropsch (FT) or Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) synthesis.

The BioSFerA project, funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 (Grant Agreement number 884208), started in 2020 and finished last March this year. The project not only performed the development and validation of the technology at pilot level (TRL5) but also evaluated the scale-up potential of the concept in financial, environmental, and social terms based on reasonable upscaling considerations and models validated at pilot scale. The valuable legacy of the project could be condensed into the following points:

Experimental/pilot achievements:

  •  Six different types of feedstock (forest residues, olive/vineyard prunings, wheat straw, sunflower husk, biogenic waste fraction) were successfully gasified, ensuring the feedstock flexibility of the concept.
  •  Integration of pilot gasification unit with mobile syngas fermentation unit for acetic acid production from real, biomass derived syngas and successful continuous operation for several days under various gas purities. Optimization in terms of costs reduction of the gas cleaning chain.
  •  Metabolic engineering of acetogenic bacteria and oleaginous yeasts for the enhancement of the acetic acid and triglycerides (TAGs) productivities towards the optimization of the novel doublestage fermentation process.
  •  A scalable DSP (downstream processing) train was defined for the efficient TAGs recovery from the fermentation broth. Innovative techniques, such as steam explosion and membrane separation, were tested.
  •  Hydrotreatment tests verified that the produced BioSFerA microbial oil (TAGs) is an appropriate feedstock for upgrade into drop-in advanced biofuels, compatible with the existing refining infrastructure. Around 300 liters of advanced biofuels for aviation and maritime use were produced.

Impact assessment towards commercialization:

  •  The environmental assessment of the BioSFerA value chain through LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) modeling revealed 50-86% GHG emission savings compared to conventional (petroleum) fuel routes.
  •  15-40% operational costs reduction compared to the conventional BtL technologies (FT & AtJ).
  •  Estimated baseline minimum selling prices of 1.83 €/L for jet fuel and 1.71 €/L for diesel (marine fuel) can be considered in the competitive price range for advanced biofuels.
  •  Similar to other BtL technologies that target advanced feedstock, capital investment and feedstock costs are the main cost-drivers of the BioSFerA process. Design optimization expressed in reduced capital costs or favorable financial terms expressed in low feedstock prices can upgrade the financial competitiveness of the concept.
  •  The direct exploitation of the BioSFerA microbial oil from the existing refining infrastructure as sustainable feedstock could be an attractive business case delivering economic benefits to the industry and beyond

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