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Unique cracker for developing green liquid fuels opened

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On May 11, Sweden’s first slurry hydrocracker for forestry-based green diesel was opened in Piteå. Here, academics, institutes and the private sector can test the technology for producing green fuels e.g. from lignin oils or other types of bio-oils.

Lignin is a primary component of wood, which is why the lignin cracking method could be an important method for increasing the availability of biodiesel and, thus, reducing the environmental impact of the transport sector.

"The cracker will help the transport sector become fossil free by 2030," Pia Sandvik, CEO for the RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, one of the financiers of the project, said at the opening in Piteå, all the preconditions, in the form of a strong combination of committed industry, research and academia, can be found that are needed to take a process all the way to full scale.

First of its kind

The cracker, which is located at the RISE Energy Technology Center, RISE ETC, in Piteå, is the first of its kind in the country. It offers the opportunity to study the entire value chain – from raw materials to biodiesel. The end goal is to create the large scale national production of biofuels based on lignin, which is a renewable raw material.

"With this venture, we strengthen RISE in general and RISE ETC in particular in the area upgrading" Magnus Marklund, MD for RISE ETC, points out. "The test bed environment with associated competences will comprise a significant support for closely related innovations that pave the way for the ambitious targets we have for 2030."

"Preem’s vision is to be a leader in the conversion to a sustainable society," Petter Holland, CEO for Preem, which is one of the project’s financiers, says. "For us, being a leader also means taking calculated risks at times. However, we do not see any risk with the slurry hydrocracker, rather, we see it as a very exciting pilot from which we will benefit greatly. The expected future reduction obligation for fuels is good and, for the first time, gives us rules of play for the long term."

The forest gives fantastic opportunities

The Swedish forest offers fantastic opportunities for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. One assessment shows that nearly two million tonnes of black liquor lignin per year can be extracted from Swedish pulp mills. This could give a considerable contribution of renewable fuel. The technology in the slurry hydrocracker also opens up great opportunities for so-called "drop in" fuels, where fossil oil and lignin can be cracked together to produce diesel that, then, also contains a proportion of green diesel.

Open plant

The slurry hydrocracker is an open plant and thus available to researchers from both academia and companies. With its size, it is an important step in the scale-up of methods for cracking lignin-based bio-oils into biofuels, which, for example, includes the development of suitable catalysts, the effect of different bio-oils, design of the feed in the process, corrosion studies, process and product development.

The full investment in the pilot plant is just over SEK 13 million. Backing the plant is a consortium consisting of RISE ETC, Preem, Chalmers and the entrepreneur company SunCarbon with the support of the Swedish Energy Agency, the Kempe Foundations, Preem, Stiftelsen Energitekniskt Centrum and RISE.