Pilot plant extracts "bio-oil" and produces organic fertilizer and protein feed

A HTL pilot plant has been inaugurated Mai 22 at AU Foulum. The plant converts organic material into oil with properties similar to petroleum. This means that organic material can substitute fossile crude oil for the production of fuels and chemicals. The facilities at Foulum are based on ground-breaking technologies.

In the future, the Danish landscape might become much greener - both literally and figuratively. The production can be more environmentally friendly and sustainable, and Denmark can achieve a higher degree of self-sufficiency with bioenergy and protein feed, if a larger part of the fields, which today are grown with coarse grains, are replaced by green fields with ryegrass, clover, alfalfa and other crops. These crops can be used for both energy and protein production. This is the vision of a great work of research and innovation, which has culminated in the opening of a HTL-plant (hydrothermal liquefaction plant) at AU Foulum.

Replacing rock oil with bio-oil

Crude oil is extracted from rock strata of varying depth and has been created in geochemical processes largely dependent on time and temperature. When organic material settled on the bottom of the sea - ten to hundreds of million years ago -it was often covered with new sediments. During subsidence temperature and pressure rose, maturing the starting material into the liquid hydrocarbons known as petroleum.

This process can be imitated via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), which is a process mixing organic material together with water and exposing it to high pressure and temperature. The result is a thick oil which can be refined into diesel and a range of other products. The process takes place in a 120 meters long tube, where the moist biomass is heated up for 450 degrees and exposed to a pressure equal to 350 bar.

The HTL-plant is combined with another plant at Foulum, which extract proteins from green biomass, before the residual product, the pulp, is used for the oil production.

The combination of the two plants opens up for a more CO2-neutral energy and protein feed, which can substitute imported soya from South America. This combination can give crop yields twice as high as today with a smaller environmental impact.

OrganoFinery and MultiPlant are involved in the project. 

OrganoFinery and MultiPlant are part of the Organic RDD 2 programme, which is coordinated by the International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems (ICROFS).