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High-octane biofuel break for Enerkem

Canadian thermochemical technology developer, Enerkem Inc., has announced that it had succeeded in producing a new high-performance biofuel that could improve the octane rating of fuels sold on the market and reduce their carbon footprint. Chemical engineers at Enerkem's Innovation Centre in Westbury, Quebec, allowed the company to successfully develop a process that uses its proprietary waste-to-biofuel technology to produce a new biofuel with a Research Octane Number (RON) of up to 112.

Anton De Vries, Corporate Director Enerkem, here seen explaining Enerkem’s proprietary technology and discussing the Rotterdam project during the World Bio Markets 2018 conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

A Research Octane Number (RON) of up to 112 is 20 points higher than the average octane rating found in regular motor gasoline. By using bio-dimethyl ether (Bio-DME), a product derived from Enerkem’s biomethanol, combined with a DME-to-high-octane-gasoline catalyst developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States, the Enerkem-NREL team were the first to demonstrate, at pilot scale, the production of an alternative fuel rich in paraffins.

It’s a major breakthrough that could enable the development of a new non-oxygenated biofuel made from waste on a commercial scale. Through the very selective catalytic reaction achieved using our waste-to-biofuels process, we have formed paraffinic molecules, such as triptane, whose properties already contain a high-octane rating, thereby increasing the volume of paraffins when used as an additive in a conventional fuel, explained Stéphane Marie-Rose, Director of Enerkem’s Innovation Centre.

In addition to the various environmental and economic upsides, there are many possible applications for a high-octane biofuel derived from Enerkem’s bio-DME. The non-oxygenated additive could serve the specialized fuels market, such as the aviation gasoline and professional motorsport sector.

As with the biomethanol and advanced ethanol produced today at commercial scale by Enerkem at its Edmonton facility in Alberta, Canada, this new biofuel allows better combustion, replaces fossil fuels and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Enerkem’s Innovation Centre intends to build on this technological advancement by further developing and optimizing the process as well as evaluating the potential commercial applications in the coming months. The announcement by the waste-to-biofuels and chemicals producer was made March 20, during the 255th American Chemical Society national meeting being held in New Orleans.

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