Final Report: Liquid Hydrocarbon Fuels From Biomass Materials

EPA Contract Number: EPD07044
Title: Liquid Hydrocarbon Fuels From Biomass Materials
Investigators: Milliken, Christopher E
Small Business: Technology Management, Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2007 through August 31, 2007
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Emission Reductions and Biofuels , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The proposed process to produce diesel fuel from biomass (wastes and crops) combines anaerobic digestion with Fischer-Tropsch technology. This requires sizeable quantities of electric power and small quantities of hydrogen and oxygen, all of which can be supplied effectively and efficiency by a solid oxide fuel cell and electrolyzer system. Experimental testing was conducted to validate key materials and stack performance assumptions of the solid oxide technology underlying the combined biomass to liquid fuel scheme. Phase I successfully validated all materials and stack assumptions.

The potential synergy of the combined system integrated with solid oxide technology is a compelling economic scenario wherein premium grade diesel fuel can be produced from cow manure for approximately $0.67 per gallon, with an initial capital investment of approximately $400,000 for a 100 -gallon per day (gpd) converter as detailed in Table 1 :

Table 1. Estimate of Capital Cost for 100 gpd

Anaerobic Digester


Digester Gas Compressor


Sulfur Section


Electrolyzer Section


Reformer Section


Fischer-Tropsch/Hydrocracker Section


Fuel Cell Section




Total Installed Cost



The results show that solid oxide electrochemical technology can be integrated with the combined anaerobic digester/Fischer-Tropsch system to create a compelling value proposition for agribusinesses to produce a clean diesel-like fuel that is cost efficient and 100 percent renewable. The underlying market assumptions have been evaluated externally and considered to have merit. The program has met all target milestones, on time and on budget.

The novelty of the TMI biomass to liquid fuel process described above extends beyond the technology. It has the advantage of being scalable to small size and flexible on fuel input. These features make it practical for medium to large single farms and food processing plants. An initial market could be in Ohio (where T M I is based), where the number of food processing plants ranks fourth in the nation, with at least 970 individual food processing companies (ODOD, 2004; Biofuel and Renewable Energy Task Force Report, 2004). Application of this technology could transform the agricultural industry by transforming food processing waste, today highly regulated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, into biofuels as a new “distributed” industry, starting in local rural communities. The conversion of local agricultural materials into a useful renewable liquid biofuel provides options such as: (1) it could be used either on-site as bioenergy to reduce the consumption of fossil energy and the load on the local grid, or (2) it could be sold wholesale as a biofuel to major oil refining companies as a cost-competitive domestic fuel blend. Furthermore, all of the carbon for the liquid fuel production is from 100 percent renewable sources.

Supplemental Keywords:

SBIR, small business, solid oxide fuel cells, solid oxide electrolyzer, Fischer-Tropsch biofuel, biodiesel, liquid hydrocarbon fuels, biomass conversion, alternative liquid fuels, biofuels,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Environmental Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, waste to fuel conversion, liquid hydrocarbon, biomass, alternative fuel, alternative energy source, biofuel