Project introduction

On 1 May 2020, the IDEALFUEL project was launched and set sails towards its goal of developing an efficient and low-cost chemical pathway to convert woody residual and waste materials such as sawdust and wood chips into a Biogenic Heavy Fuel Oil (Bio-HFO) with ultra-low sulphur levels that can be used as drop-in fuel in the existing maritime fleet.

Ships are crucial for the transportation of goods around the world. However, the use of heavy fuel oils (HFOs) contributes to global warming due to the fossil origin of these fuels and although cleaner fuels are available, many companies opt for HFOs due to their low costs. However, HFOs are banned in the national waters of many countries. In addition, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is seeking to ban their use in Arctic waters. Due to environmental concerns and national as well as international regulations associated with fossil based HFOs, there is a considerable need for low-cost cleaner and renewable alternatives for the maritime industry.

Lignin is the key
IDEALFUEL aims to develop methods to convert lignin – the polymer found in the structural materials of plants and trees – from dry plant matter (otherwise known as lignocellulosic biomass) into renewable marine fuels. To achieve this goal, the IDEALFUEL consortium plans to devise an efficient and cost-effective two-step chemical process. In the first step, lignin is extracted from lignocellulosic biomass in the form of Crude Lignin Oil (CLO), leaving behind a solid cellulose material that can be used in the paper industry or converted into ethanol. In the second step, the CLO is refined and converted into a Biogenic Heavy Fuel Oil (Bio-HFO) that can be used in combination with traditional fossil fuels in a fuel blend or neat in the engines of the world’s maritime fleet without technical modifications.

The IDEAL route from Well to Propeller
The ambition of the IDEALFUEL project is to develop the new technologies and processes from the current lab-scale (TRL3) via bench-scale (TRL4) to pilot scale (TRL5) to prove the performance and compatibility of the Bio-HFO over the whole blending range in maritime fuel systems and marine engines. In addition, IDEALFUEL will carry out a Well to Propeller impact assessment and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to check and proof the soundness of the environmental, society, and sustainability aspects of the developed technologies, processes, products, solutions, and logistics.

Research and Industry Collaboration
IDEALFUEL is a broad collaboration with research institutions and industry working together to address the complete value chain from CLO production to the end-user. The project is coordinated by Eindhoven University of Technology (NL) and involves participants from four different EU and associated countries. The participants are Vertoro B.V. (NL), Tec4Fuels GmbH (DE), Bloom Biorenewables Ltd (CH), Uniresearch B.V. (NL), Winterthur Gas & Diesel Ltd. (CH), GoodFuels B.V. (NL), Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems GmbH (DE), OWI Science for Fuels gGmbH (DE), Agenica Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (Spanish Research Council, CSIC)(ES), and Varo Energy Netherlands B.V. (NL).

You can find the Project Concept here.

Want to know more about lignin in the oil industry? Check out this video by IDEALFUEL partners TUe and Vertoro.