A new synthetic diesel fuel produced using a Fischer-Tropsch process based biomass-to-liquids (BTL) technology, and developed by Shell and Choren Industries, will be launched in Europe later this year.
Utilising waste plant material like wood chips and straw instead of food crops like soybean and rapeseed, 15,000 tonnes per year of the SunDiesel fuel will be produced at a pilot plant in eastern Germany. A much larger 200,000 tonnes per year BTL plant is to begin construction next year to quickly ramp up supply.

According to Choren, SunDiesel;
  • has a high cetane number and therefore much better ignition performance than conventional diesel fuel,
  • has no aromatics or sulfur and significantly reduces pollutants from exhaust emissions,
  • can be used without any adjustment to existing infrastructure or engine systems,
  • is largely CO2-neutral.
Shell has also just announced a construction of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Idaho with help from a $80 million U.S. federal grant which will run on plant waste and straw.

Analysis: Shell is already the world's biggest biofuel distributor and appears to be moving aggressively to retain their crown. BTL is a very exciting technology and will play a huge role over the next twenty years once the price comes down enough to compete with petroleum fuels.

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[Source: The Australian]

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