a division of NEPIC

Renewable Fuels

In broad terms there are three main driving forces for the development of renewable fuels:

  • Onset of climate change and resulting regulation and incentivisation
  • The world’s reserves of crude fossil fuels are finite
  • Energy security as reserves are located outside the developed world

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) commits the European Union to achieve a legally binding target of 20% renewable energy by 2020 with a UK sub target to achieve a minimum 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020.

Renewable Fuels in the North East

The North East of England has seen significant levels of investment activity in recent years in the fields of renewable fuels. This has been driven by the co-location of a large-scale petrochemical industry and an extensive agricultural hinterland. Biofuels Corporation started up a 250,000 tonne/year biodiesel plant in 2006 and today, this asset is operated by Greenergy.

Crop Energies (formerly Ensus Group) operates a 400million litre bioethanol plant at Wilton, the largest wheat based biorefinery in Europe. Bioethanol is extensively used for petrol substitution and blending. The refinery also produces a high protein DDGS animal feed, a high-protein ingredient for cattle, pig and poultry diets and liquid carbon dioxide for the food, beverage and horticultural industries. Biorefining takes cereal grains such as light starch wheat and breaks down the starch stored in each grain to sugars. These sugars are then fermented into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Technology Development

High temperature processes such as pyrolysis and gasification are referred to as advanced technologies. Pyrolysis (thermal decomposition of biomass in the absence of air) produces a pyrolysis oil which can serve as a fuel source, but also a charcoal like material called bio-char which can be crushed and dug into the soil to improve soil fertility. It reduces nitrous oxide emissions and assist with water retention whilst keeping the carbon long term within the soil because the bio-char is largely resistant to decomposition. Gasification is a process that converts biomass materials at high temperature, into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, known as synthesis or syngas. The syngas can be used to synthesise longer chain hydrocarbons using technology such as Fischer Tropsch. Potential products are diesel, alcohols or jet fuel in the form of biokerosene.

North East Bioresources & Renewables, c/o NEPIC, Room H224, Wilton Centre, Wilton, Redcar, TS10 4RF | T +44 (0) 1642 442 560