Already in the 1920s, the concept of using hot water and alkali catalysts to produce oil out of biomass was proposed. This later served as the foundation of what is today called hydrothermal liquefaction or HTL. Hydrothermal liquefaction gained interest among researchers in the 1970s during the oil embargo, and it was in this decade that the first pilot plants were built. Back then, hydrothermal liquefaction described the process of, in simpler terms, using high temperature and pressure in the presence of liquid water to create oil. Essentially mimicking the process that takes place over millions of years in planet Earth, where biomass is converted to crude oil, but with the important distinction that hydrothermal liquefaction takes place in minutes and not millennia.
Today the process of hydrothermal liquefaction has been vastly improved upon to the point that it compared to other technologies has a higher conversion rate and provides a cleaner bio-crude. The typical process takes place with a feedstock consisting of 15-20% dry matter with a reaction temperature around 350°, a pressure of around 250 Bar and a reaction between 10 to 20 minutes. The produced oil, or bio-crude, will contain from 70-80% of the energy content of the original feedstock with an oxygen content of around 10-15%. The bio-crude can be used as is or upgraded for refining into traditional drop-in fuels such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene and heavy fuel oil.
Bio2Oil has together with researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark developed a range of unique technologies that further improves on the conversion and the energy efficiency of the process through a 100 Liter/hour pilot plant at Aarhus University’s facility in Foulum, designed by our founder Ib Johannsen. This has given us crucial experience in upscaling hydrothermal conversion and hydrothermal liquefaction processes as well as relevant pre and post treatment processes. Thereby we have achieved greater scalability, cost efficiency and energy recovery.