ExxonMobil gets green with biofuel research deal

ExxonMobil and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) have renewed research into the conversion of biomass into green transportation fuels. The oil giant and the university have agreed to work together for two more years on a project aiming to identify scalable […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

ExxonMobil and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) have renewed research into the conversion of biomass into green transportation fuels.

The oil giant and the university have agreed to work together for two more years on a project aiming to identify scalable and commercially viable solutions to use the renewable resource to help meet increasing global energy demand.

Researchers say it will leverage the university’s biomass expertise with ExxonMobil’s resources and strong technological capabilities to reduce the total number of steps needed in the conversion process.

One approach could use solvents to dissolve the entire biomass in one go, potentially making it possible to convert the whole feedstock into fuel-sized molecules in a single reactor.

Another process to be studied involves catalysing bio-ethanol into bio-diesel and jet fuel, allowing larger diesel and jet fuel molecules to be produced from renewable sources.

George Huber, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UW-Madison, said: “Biofuels have the potential to become a significant option for meeting growing global demand for diesel and jet fuel if low cost and scalable technologies can be developed.

“The focus of this fundamental research is to demonstrate technologies that could make such a scenario possible.”

Scientists have suggested biofuels produced from waste products could make a “real impact” in cutting carbon emissions, compared to those made from crops.