Aston developing bioenergy technology in £1.4m project

Bioenergy research

The University’s Bioenergy Research Group (BERG) is involved in a £1.4m project aimed at developing new technologies to transform bio-oil into a more efficient source of renewable energy, potentially capable of replacing fuels such as diesel. 

The Bio-oil Refinery Project, part funded by the Research Council of Norway, will develop new, integrated bio-oil technology to transform biomass more efficiently into biofuels through fast pyrolysis - the process of heating materials in the absence of oxygen. This will include turning biomass material such as tree bark and waste wood into usable oil for heat power and transportation needs.

The two year scheme will help develop fast pyrolysis oil technology, which in the long term could potentially create a range of energy benefits, not least as a mainstream oil alternative for diesel fuels. Pyrolysis oil has a number of advantages over fossil fuels as it is renewable, non-toxic and in case of any spillage it does not spread on water like petroleum. Bio-oil is also more suitable for long-distance transportation than other renewable fuel sources including raw biomass or wood pellets due to its high energy density.

Coordinated by the Paper and Fibre Institute in Norway, The Bio-oil Refinery Project  involves Aston University and several partners from Norway and Sweden.

Prof Tony Bridgwater, Head of BERG, said; “This project will form an international network between industry, academia and research institutes. We need to develop more efficient technologies to not only make bio-oil viable on a large scale at lower costs, but also to derive transportation fuels with similar objectives.”

Words by Alex Earnshaw

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