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OMV and BDI make diesel from wood

  • Innovation Minister, Doris Bures, and OMV CEO, Gerhard Roiss, open the BioCRACK pilot plant at the OMV Refinery in Schwechat on July 2
  • New technology developed: plant converts wood chips directly into diesel fuel

On July 2, 2012 Doris Bures, Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, and Gerhard Roiss, OMV CEO, opened the BioCRACK pilot plant at the OMV Refinery in Schwechat. The plant is the first of its kind in the world and converts solid biomass – such as wood chips and straw – directly into diesel fuel. The pilot plant fulfils two fundamental tasks: producing diesel to meet the growing demand, while simultaneously increasing the biogenic share. This innovative process is therefore setting the course for the future.

OMV and BDI – BioEnergy International AG, have been jointly involved in the innovative BioCRACK pilot plant project since 2009, with support from the BMVIT and the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund. Explaining the background to the project,  OMV CEO Gerhard Roiss, said: “The European fuel market faces considerable challenges: it must meet the growing demand for diesel and raise the renewable energy share in the transport fuel sector to at least 10 percent by 2020. Conventional first-generation biofuels are not a long-term solution because the cultivation of the necessary raw materials competes with food production. Our refineries are well positioned and the BioCRACK technology that was developed in partnership with BDI is a further response from OMV to the changing conditions.”

Emphasizing the innovative power of the project, Doris Bures, Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, said: “There are high expectations worldwide for second-generation biofuels. This new technology and the pilot plant therefore represent true pioneering work by domestic companies and researchers. They also reflect the success of our technology policy as we have consistently channeled research funding into environmental and energy technology, which involves the careful handling of resources, energy efficiency and climate protection.”
Second-generation fuels will be extracted from biomass, using excess of agriculture and forestry (e.g. wood chips and straw) but without the use of food. This means the fuels will not compete with areas that are needed for food production. A further advantage of the second generation biofuels is the excellent environmental balance (fewer CO2 emissions in production).

BioCRACK pilot plant at the OMV Refinery in Schwechat
Edgar Ahn, board member of BDI, explains: “From the start of the project, the objective was to develop a technically simple, cost-effective and, on a small scale, profitable process that fulfills two basic tasks – to produce diesel and to raise the biogenic share.” To extract biogenic diesel, the BioCRACK pilot plant uses an innovative, patented process whereby the biomass is heated with heavy oil to over 400 °C, meaning diesel is produced with a biogenic share of up to 20 percent. The biomass that is used consists largely of renewable raw materials such as wood and straw. The BioCRACK pilot plant is directly linked to other plants in the refinery. This means that the existing plants can refine the locally produced product into diesel fuel according to the current EN590 standard.

A further advantage of the plant is that, in the past, heavy mineral oil was used mainly for the production of petrol, but it can now be used for the production of diesel, which is in strong demand. The by-products that are generated through the process, such as biogas and biocoal, can also be used energetically or converted into higher-quality products through further processing.

“This opens up completely new perspectives worldwide for a more effective use of refineries and a more economical use of oil, which is such a valuable resource,” adds Roiss.
By mid-2014, the innovative process will be tested at the refinery in Schwechat and brought to market maturity. The Austrian Climate and Energy Fund (Klima und Energiefonds) provided a grant of EUR 2 million as part of the ‘New Energies 2020’ research and technology program for the development of the BioCRACK technology.