Researcher wins grant for hybrid conversion biofuel process

By Oklahoma State University | April 01, 2014

For many years, researchers around the globe have been searching for viable ways to produce biofuels.

This is true for Oklahoma State University Biobased Products and Energy Center (BioPEC) faculty members, who strive to enhance existing, and develop new, bioconversion technologies. Hasan Atiyeh, assistant professor in biosystems and agricultural engineering, recently received a South Central Sun Grant Award to advance the development of a new hybrid conversion process.

“The hybrid gasification-syngas fermentation technology, when further developed, has the potential to provide 35 percent more biofuel from the same amount of biomass compared to other available conversion technologies,” he said. “For example, the use of the hybrid technology is expected to reduce the production cost of cellulosic ethanol by 16 cents per gallon compared to the sugar platform.”

Biorefineries have an opportunity to save millions of dollars every year through this technology.

“If biofuel producers adopt the hybrid technology to produce 25 percent of the mandated 16 billion gallons per year of renewable transportation fuels, a projected savings of more than $650 million per year can be achieved due to the use of 13.1 million tons less biomass with the hybrid technology,” he said.

It is not just producers who could greatly benefit, as establishing biorefineries in both rural and urban environments will enhance local economic development, provide employment and be a step toward a sustainable and secure energy supply.

With a biomass feedstock, such as switchgrass, redcedar or agricultural residues, and a daily consumption of 1,000 metric tons of biomass, approximately 39 million gallons per year of ethanol would be produced.

“This would result in 100 direct jobs and about 500 indirect positions created or induced by this process, resulting in a very positive impact on Oklahoma’s rural economy,” he said. “In addition, this technology has the potential to be applied to similar microbial strains that can produce butanol and hexanol, which can be upgraded to diesel and jet fuels.”