The first plant to convert solid biomass such as wood chips and straw directly into diesel fuel opened last week in Austria.
Said to be the first of its kind in the world, the BioCRACK pilot plant at a petrochemical refinery in Schwechat extracts the diesel by heating the biomass with heavy oil to over 400 °C.
Diesel made out of biofuel could be an important alternative to “first-generation” biofuels because these are a threat to food supply, according to Gerhard Roiss, CEO of OMV, one of the firms behind the plant.
Mr 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% by 2020. Conventional first-generation biofuels are not a long-term solution because the cultivation of the necessary raw materials competes with food production.”
Researchers also claim biofuels from wood produce fewer CO2 emissions in production.