Ron Wincek prepares to install reactor components
Ron Wincek prepares to install reactor components

Battelle Project attempts to make jet fuel using bio oil

25 percent of the world’s coal reserves are in the United States. A team at the EMS Energy Institute is attempting to make use of that reserve for alternative fuel sources. The research focuses on the formation of jet fuel from coal/biomass blends to liquids.

“There’s been a lot of research in making coal into liquids using certain types of solvents and using different types of catalysts,” Caroline Clifford, a senior research associate, said. “But for using a bio-based liquid there hasn’t been as much research done.”

Clifford said her team is working as part of a larger research project based in Ohio that has funding from the Department of Energy and Battelle. There has been a push to utilize the technology of liquefying coal, Clifford said, because of the massive amount of coal in the United States.

Clifford said the goal of the project is to do lab-scale work and then eventually increase to larger conditions. The team is using a semi-batch process in which they fill up up a reactor with coal, bio-oil, and solvent, run it for a particular amount of time and then take out the products and filter it, working in batches and stages.

“We’re doing initial screening studies using micro-reactors approximately 15-20 milliliters in volume in which we charge a combination of coal, bio-oil and coal-derived solvent,” said Ron Wincek, a graduate student working on the project. Wincek said the team is investigating different conditions and the effect on the conversion of the coal/biomass to liquid, including effective pressure, temperature, possible use of hydrogen, possible use of a catalyst and reaction time.

Once the optimum conditions are found, Wincek said, research will move into the liquefaction lab that has been set up to produce larger quantities. Three continuous stirred tank reactors, roughly one liter in volume, will be connected.

Clifford said she is excited to see interest in alternative fuels, particularly now because of the low price of oil when people are less likely to invest in other sources. “It’s really important to see something like that come to fruition,” Clifford said.