Biofuel, Feedstock, Partnership, R&D

ExxonMobil establishes biofuels research program

I think it’s a biofuels news kind of day.

ExxonMobil Corporation announced last month that it has established an advanced biofuels research program at Iowa State University.  The ExxonMobil Biofuels Program will initially focus on two research projects with Iowa State. The studies are related to the fast pyrolysis of biomass – rapidly heating biomass (including corn stalks, switchgrass or wood chips) without oxygen to produce liquid bio-oil, which can then be upgraded into transportation fuels.

Iowa State researchers have been studying fast pyrolysis for more than 15 years and have recently upgraded a fast pyrolysis pilot plant at the university’s BioCentury Research Farm.

According to ExxonMobil’s The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040, the need for energy will continue to grow as economies expand, living standards rise and the world’s population grows by more than 25 percent through 2040. Global demand for energy is projected to rise by about 35 percent from 2010 to 2040.

The ExxonMobil projects will be led by four researchers: Brown and Terry Meyer, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, will study fundamentals of pyrolysis. Brent Shanks, the Mike and Jean Steffenson Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, and Xianglan Bai, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will study processes that influence bio-oil stability and quality.

Juan Proano Aviles, an Iowa State doctoral student in mechanical engineering, uses a micropyrolyzer to simulate the thermal and chemical behavior of biomass as it’s processed into bio-oil

By the way, even though ExxonMobil is not really prominent on the bio0based chemicals area, I heard from a veteran chemical consultant that the company has a lot of patents on its arsenal that could be useful to the renewable chemicals field.  It is also interesting to see somebody from ExxonMobil attended and stayed the whole time at the chemicals session during the recent World Bio Markets USA conference in San Diego.

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


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