Sulzer "For a more sustainable world"

Transportation fuels produced from biomass are commonly called biofuels. First-generation biofuels are mostly produced from feedstock that is also used for food products. Such biofuels are ethanol from sugar cane or corn, biodiesel from canola seeds or soybeans, and others. They are commonly produced all over the world. The second-generation biofuels, which come from non-food sources, have high potential as a renewable transportation fuel—and for many Sulzer solutions.

The driving force to use and produce renewable fuels is the desire to prevent global warming, reduce greenhouse gases (CO2 emissions), and at the same time decrease the use of fossil fuels. Sulzer Pumps' pumping and process technology, which supports the conversion of non-food biomass into transportation fuels to power cars and trucks, can significantly contribute to biofuel manufacturing processes [Figure 1]. Bioenergy is already making a substantial contribution toward meeting the global demand for energy. Most of the biomass used worldwide is used for plain heating or electricity generation. However, there are also considerable opportunities for bioenergy relating to more complex applications like transportation. Global ethanol production—ethanol can be used as fuel for cars—almost doubled between 2005 and 2008, increasing from 34 to 65 billion liters annually. Global production of biodiesel, starting from a much smaller base, expanded nearly fourfold in the same period. Compared with the world oil demand of around 86 million barrels (1 barrel = 159 l) per day, biofuels still constitute a small share overall. This contribution can be significantly expanded in the future, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases [Figure 2] and increasing energy security.

Fuel for cars and trucks
First-generation biofuels are produced in two ways. The first is through the fermentation of either a starch-based feedstock such as corn kernels, or a sugar-based feedstock, such as sugar cane, into
ethanol, or ethyl alcohol. This fuel has uses similar to those of conventional gasoline. Brazil and the USA are major producers. In 2008, these two countries produced 89% of the world's ethanol fuel. The second method is processing vegetable oils, e.g., from soy, canola, or palm seeds, into biodiesel, a non-petroleum based diesel fuel for, e.g., trucks. The biggest producer of biodiesel is Germany, which produces 2.7 million of the world’s 5–6 million tons.

Reliable Sulzer technology
Sulzer technology plays a considerable role in the production of first-generation ethanol. Sulzer Pumps has equipped 70% of the approximately 170 production plants for corn-based ethanol in the USA.
In addition, a remarkable part of the process experience comes from pump and agitator installations in Europe. Sulzer process pumps capitalize on broad technical knowledge and experience relating to the pumping and mixingof high-solid liquids and fiber suspensions in the pulp and paper and general industries. This experience and knowhow ensures that Sulzer pumps and process equipment also operate efficiently and reliably in biofuel applications.

Biodiesel is produced by a transesterification reaction from natural oil and fat to fatty acid methyl ester (FAME). Transesterification is the process of exchanging the alkoxy group of an ester compound by another alcohol. For this process, Sulzer Chemtech offers basic engineering and key equipment like packings and internals, static mixers, and heat exchangers. Using Sulzer technology, this process is flexible and can operate with varying amounts of methanol and water in the raw biodiesel. Both are unwanted pollutants and need to be removed from the feedstock. Sulzer guarantees efficient separation of biodiesel with a minimum methanol fraction. Worldwide over 60 biodiesel refineries rely on Sulzer packings, internals, and trays. Over 120 first-generation bioethanol plants have been supplied by Sulzer Chemtech worldwide. In the United States Sulzer Chemtech has a market share of over 60%.

Developing non-food sources
Second-generation biofuel manufacturing processes are in pilot and demonstration plant phases. Research into their production process is focused on developing technologies that can convert cellulosic biomass into transportation fuels. Cellulosic biomass includes agricultural or forestry wastes, such as corn stalks or wood chips, or energy crops like fastgrowing trees and grasses. Using cellulosic biomass as a source of new transportation fuels has obvious advantages, but these materials have different chemical structural bonds than food-based crops do, and these bonds are more difficult to break down. However, due to the availability of the feedstock, these second-generation fuels will play an important role in diversifying the world's energy sources and in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

New processes
For the production of ethanol from cellulosic feedstock, two main processes are under evaluation: biochemical [Figure 3a] and thermochemical [Figure 3b]. In the first—the biochemical process—biomass is broken down to sugars using enzymatic and/or chemical pretreatment processes and then converted to ethanol via fermentation. This process is similar to the production of first-generation ethanol because cellulosic biomass contains sugars as well. However, these sugars are much harder to release than those in starchy biomass are, and some are difficult to ferment. A secondary product of this process is lignin, which can be burned to produce heat and power or can be converted to other fuels and by-products. In the second, biofuels (and other bioproducts) can also be produced thermochemically from any form of carbon containing biomass. In this approach, feedstock is gasified at high temperature to convert biomass into syngas (CO and H2) which is then converted through various synthesis processes into bioethanol or biodiesel. This method is particularly important because as much as one third of cellulosic biomass—the lignin-rich parts—cannot be easily converted biochemically. At present, the total energy input needed for the production process may still be high, but in some cases, the biomass feedstock can provide most of the energy. Net CO2 emissions fromligno-cellulosic ethanol can therefore be almost 70% lower than from gasoline or first-generation bioethanol. This value could reach 100% if electricity co-generated using the by-product lignin displaced electricity from gas- or coal-fired power plants. Another very interesting thermochemical conversion process is based on pyrolysis and very intensively studied by several parties. The thermochemical biomass conversion process is complex, and it uses components, configurations, and operating conditions that are similar to petroleum refining. Consequentially, companies from the oil and gas field are also active in the development of advanced biofuels.

Experience from oil and gas
With their mature technologies in the oil and gas as well as the hydrocarbon processing industries, Sulzer Pumps, Sulzer Chemtech, and Sulzer Metco are well positioned to advance second-generation biorefinery processes. Additionally, Sulzer Pumps’ R&D center for pumping and mixing technology in Karhula, Finland, has its roots in the pulp and paper process. The Finnish engineers focus on treatment and handling of highconsistency stock. This task requires pumps that are able to handle slurries and fluids with a high content of solids as well as mixers and agitators, which could be used in the fermenter tank. This specialized knowledge will support the development of fuel from feedstock such as algae, wood chips, or switchgrass, as each second-generation biorefinery will have need of 80–100 pumps, several mixers and agitators, as well as additional process equipment [Figure 4]. Handling the ligno-cellulosic feedstock for ethanol production requires corrosion-resistant and wear-resistant materials, a field in which Sulzer Metco has expertise. Sulzer Chemtech develops chemical processes in collaboration with clients and is already involved in pilot-plant activities regarding advanced biofuels [Figures 5,6 & 7]. During its commercialization, a chemical process has to be transferred from the laboratory to industrial dimensions. Sulzer Chemtech has successfully scaled up processes for first-generation ethanol and other industries. It is now also ready to engage in the scale-up of cellulosic ethanol plants.

Strong growth expected
In view of the climate change and the need to reduce CO2 emissions, lawmakers all over the world support the development of these new biofuels. The European Union has announced a plan endorsing a mandatory 10% minimum target to be achieved by all member states for the share of biofuels in transport petrol and diesel consumption by 2020, which is subject to production being sustainable and second-generation biofuels becoming commercially available. In the USA, the Department of Energy (DOE) offers financial awards to evolve new technologies for developing cellulosic ethanol, and the government set the goal of annual production of 80 billion liters of advanced biofuels by 2022. Sulzer technology will support such initiatives and the development of environment-friendly technologies in pilot and demonstration plants and eventually in future commercial installations.


















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