The work plan of the BIOCTANE project is structured in six work packages (WPs) integrating biotechnological, thermochemical and
catalytic steps for the conversion of organic waste to market-ready renewable jet-fuels. While the geographic distribution of the project partners is depicted in the next figure, further below the connections between each WP can also be found.
aireg – Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany e.V. was founded in 2011 as an association of companies and organisations from industry, research, and science. As a non-profit initiative, aireg is committed to the availability and use of renewable energies in aviation to achieve the ambitious CO₂ reduction targets of the aviation industry.
The members come from all areas of the value chain of renewable energies for aviation: This ranges from research at universities and large research institutions, plant manufacturers and operators, biorefineries, the petroleum industry, engine and aircraft manufacturers, governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, and airports to airlines. The industrial members internationally cover a broad international spectrum, from start-ups to large corporations.
Within BIOCTANE, aireg e.V. is responsible for the dissemination, exploitation, and communication of research developments and results. Dissemination measures include, among others, scientific workshops with specialists from science and industry, summer schools for Master & PhD students, and open access publications for science and especially the society. The overall goal of these activities is to maximize the impact of the project’s research results on society to show that options for GHG-neutral commercial air transport exist.
Institute IMDEA Energy has been created by the Regional Government of the Community of Madrid to promote and carry out R&D activities related to energy, with a special emphasis on issues concerning renewable energies and clean energy technologies.
In 2020, it obtained the accreditation of ‘María de Maeztu’ Unit of Excellence, granted by the State Research Agency. The María de Maeztu Units of the Spanish Excellence Programme identify and promote excellence in high-impact scientific research.
IMDEA is responsible for BIOCTANE’s project coordination and management (project coordinator) on the administrative level. In scientific terms, it is actively involved in WP3, in particular in the chemical conversion of 2,3-butanediol (2,3-BDO) to jet-fuel range hydrocarbons.
The challenge is to integrate in a unique step the dehydration of such diol with the oligomerization of the resultant monomeric olefins, since they are typically separate reactions. The resultant olefins will be later hydrogenated to produce the targeted jet-fuel.
Institut National De Recherche Pour L’Agriculture, L’Alimentation Et L’Environment (INRAE) – Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology
Humankind and the planet are facing global changes that will create new challenges for research to address: limiting the effects of and adapting to climate change; increasing food security and nutrition security; transitioning to new agricultural systems; preserving natural resources; restoring biodiversity; and anticipating and managing risks. It will also be important to consider more regional issues like living conditions, farmers’ salaries, the economic competitiveness of companies, land use, and universal access to healthy and varied diets.
As the world’s top institute for research on agriculture, food, and the environment, INRAE will help address these concerns. It will use research, innovation, and support for public policies as tools to guide the emergence of sustainable agricultural and food production systems. The institute aims to carry out science dedicated to life, humans, and the Earth that uncovers solutions to our most pressing concerns.
The research will be carried out at the Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology (LBE). The LBE aims to develop the concept of environmental biorefinery which consists in valorizing residues, wastes, organic effluents from human activities as well as certain biomasses into products of industrial interest (bioenergy, biomolecules, amendment and organic fertilizer) while minimizing their environmental and sanitary impact. The LBE was identified as Advanced Technologies for Industry (AIT)” Technology Centre by the European Commission. It is part of the I-site Montpellier Université d’Excellence, Institut Carnot 3BCar, ICIREWARD, International UNESCO water centre and LabEx Agro.
For BIOCTANE, INRAE-LBE will work on Module 1 – Dark fermentation and bioelectrochemical polishing. This entails the first steps of the proposed production chain, a dark fermentation step of organic waste. This biomass will be fermented by a mixed microbial consortium under slightly acidic conditions and in absence of external electron acceptor. This treatment step will result in a concentrated mixture of carboxylic acids (mostly propionic, butyric and acetic acids), while hydrogen and carbon dioxide will also be collected as gaseous co-products. Bioelectrochemical systems will be used to finely polish the composition of the effluents.
The Paul Scherrer Institute PSI is the largest research institute for natural and engineering sciences in Switzerland, conducting cutting-edge research in four main fields: future technologies, energy and climate, health innovation, and fundamentals of nature. PSI develops, builds, and operates complex large research facilities. Every year, more than 2500 scientists from Switzerland and around the world come to PSI to use our unique facilities to carry out experiments that are not possible anywhere else.
For BIOCTANE, the remaining organics from the dark fermentation step will be used as a substrate for the catalytic hydrothermal gasification process to produce a hydrogen-rich gas for Module 2 (WP1). For such a thermochemical conversion step, no drying or further pretreatment steps are necessary, and all biomass remaining after the biotechnological conversion can ideally be used as it is. The off gas from the process and one of the liquid effluents, rich in carbon and salts, will be reused within the biotechnological conversion steps to reach a high carbon efficiency of the overall process.
Based on the realization that innovations and new approaches to solutions often emerge at the boundary between disciplines, the research structure of the TUHH is intended to promote interdisciplinary cooperation among scientists. For this reason, the research at TUHH is not organized through faculties or departments but is structured into five overarching research fields: Environmental & Energy Systems; Logistics, Mobility & Infrastructure; Cyber-Physical & Medical Systems; Aviation & Maritime Technologies; Advanced Materials & (Bio-)Processes.
Two institutes of TUHH are contributing to BIOCTANE: The Institute of Technical Microbiology (TMI) and the Institute of Environmental Technology and Energy Economics (IUE).
TUHH TMI (Institute for Technological Microbiology) investigates the biotechnological conversion of a substrate leading to acetoin or 2,3-butanediol. Both compounds are known as valuable platform chemicals and can be produced from the central metabolite pyruvate which is formed in major amounts via the autotrophic Calvin cycle metabolism, but also within the propionic acid metabolism. The bacterium Cupriavidus necator will be applied as a biocatalyst to be engineered for the production of these two platform chemicals.
TUHH IUE (Institute for Environmental Technology and Energy Economics) leads the activities in WP4: Process evaluation. This aims – based on an extensive process flow modelling – to assess the process efficiency (e.g., material flow, energy flow, carbon-use efficiency) for the individual conversion steps as well as the overall process relative to the main target product as well as the overall product spectrum. The challenge is to transfer the data provided on a reasonably low TRL to a higher TRL to allow for realistic overall process schemes and, thus, for realistic statements about the strengths and weaknesses of this conversion approach. These results are the basis for a subsequent economic and environmental assessment carried out to analyze the overall process, e.g., related to the fuel provision costs as well as the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – and this for different future time horizons respectively different stages of development.
The Rey Juan Carlos University promotes research aimed at economic and social development, promoting and strengthening research activity and the dissemination and transfer of knowledge and results to society. The promotion of R&D&i activities is carried out through collaboration with companies and institutions, and participation in national and international calls that allow our researchers to develop their lines of research, contributing to the generation, expansion and dissemination of knowledge and the advancement of science and technology.
Research activities of URJC within the BIOCTANE project enclose the upcycling of acetoin to jet-fuel range hydrocarbons. Traditional routes for converting this platform molecule into jet-fuel hydrocarbons involve a cascade of catalytic reactions with specific catalysts and operation conditions. By seeking for the most efficient chemical routes towards market-ready fuels derived from 100 % sustainable biobased carbon, a one-pot process for the direct conversion of acetoin to jet-fuel range hydrocarbons will be developed.
The design of multifunctional catalysts and optimization of the operating conditions will be the core of the chemical conversion routes to be explored. So far, it is open which of the potential catalysis routes might be more suitable for possible large-scale production, establishing a minimum C-yield of 50 %. This conclusion will be assessed from work provided in this Work Package and the life cycle and economic process evaluation conducted in WP4.