Synthetic accelerated wood oil (Article S&V, 1980)

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Synthetic accelerated wood oil (Article S&V, 1980)

by Christophe » 20/07/11, 13:47

Who said that oil has been formed over millions of years?
The sudden burial of a forest under a mountain can give the same results. Experience has shown that accelerating decomposition, heat and pressure can produce oil in one hour! I remember reading an article about it a few years ago, mentioning such experiments: cow dung heated and compressed under a few hundred bars would have given oil considered "good quality", but far too expensive to produce at this time (towards 1950?) ... Who would possess a sufficient press to test?

Personally, I would like to immerse a deformable container full of cow dung off the coast, to see ...
- The supply of heat would be provided by the pressure itself (4000 m background give 400 bar). It remains to work the isolation of the container.
- Pumping and return to the port of the tanker one hour later.

... And that is how oil becomes a "renewable energy",
CO2 from current plants consumed by our ruminants.

Fun, no?

(extract from an email of 2006)

Science and Life article, June 1980 (.pdf version below)

Accelerated oil

After more than half a century of effort, the accelerated manufacture of oil from wood waste adds to alternative energy technologies. What is more, wood oil
will be economically competitive with the other. In May, a barrel of oil made entirely from wood chips came out of a pilot plant in Albany, Oregon. It had been done in one hour, thanks to the process developed by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, near San Francisco.
The idea is so simple that one wonders why one had not thought of it before; in fact, we thought about it. In 1920, the German Franz Fischer had tried to obtain oil from sawdust, mixed with anthracene oil, all under pressure. Unfortunately, the process never reached the stage of the pilot plant, and it was extremely expensive; it was necessary to dry the wood chips at high temperature, then mechanically spray them; moreover, the oil used was expensive.
Yet in 1972, the US Bureau of Mines took the idea of ​​Fischer. By modifying it slightly, he obtained interesting results in the laboratory; he therefore started the small pilot plant in Albany, located near a fir forest that was to provide
raw materials. While the plant was still under construction, the project was sent to the ERDA, the predecessor of the US Department of Energy (DOE).

In 1976, Bechtel Corporation signed a contract with DOE to complete this study. Without success. A year later, the DOE asked the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory to take the
relay. And Sabri Ergun, a researcher at this Laboratory, decided to abandon the method developed by the Bureau des Mines. Why ?

Because, like the German process, it was expensive; moreover, the wood powder mixed with the oil had an unfortunate tendency to dilate, and the pumps which were to inject the
sawdust in the reactor would fall down at any moment, clogged with lumps of wood pulp; in short, the process proved impossible to transfer from the laboratory to the test plant.
The Berkeley group then had the idea to simply use water to replace the oil.

"In fact," said James Wrathall, one of the team members, "we macerate wood chips - not powder - in a mixture of water and sulfuric acid;
we add enough acid to bring the pH to 2 and enough water to make 75% of the weight of the mixture. Then we heat to 180 ° C for about 45 minutes;
the chips then disintegrate into more or less fine and extremely friable particles. It is then enough to pass quickly the mixture in a refiner to obtain a homogeneous mud
who has the precious quality of not closing off the pumps through which it flows. "

The mixture is then directed to the reactor, where the conversion of wood into oil will take place. Little by little, the pressure is brought to 200 atmospheres by forcing towards the inside of the tank a
reducing gas mixture composed of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. At the same time, the temperature is increased to 360 ° C. The reaction then takes place very rapidly, in about ten
minutes. "We have," says Wrathall, "tried to use catalysts; we tested 40 exactly. Some like sodium carbonate are very cheap and
relatively effective, others, such as an iodized compound, are even very effective, but also very expensive; others, like ferric chloride, make it possible to obtain
hydrocarbon virtually pure and are relatively inexpensive, but they pose corrosion problems. The Berkeley team admits that they have not yet found the ideal catalyst and even wonders if it is necessary to add such a chemical to the reaction. The wood - water - sulfuric acid process was tested in the laboratory before being transferred to the Albany plant.

"With 100 g of wood," says Sabri Ergun, "we got 80 g of liquid 9,2 g was oil". In Albany, the results were not so good because the plant was not originally designed to work according to the method developed at Berkeley. With 45,36 kg of wood, treated with 152 kg of water and 80 g of sulfuric acid, 2,56 kg of oil was obtained. In all Berkeley tests treated 408,24 kg of wood and produced 22,68 kg of oil. The "oil" phase consisted of 0,6% solids, 7,1% water and 92,3% oil itself. The latter contained 81,2% carbon, 7,9% hydrogen, 0,1 nitrogen and 10,8% oxygen. Its calorific value was 8 740 calories per kg, and its 1,09 density.

Better still, the energy balance of the operation is quite positive: it is between 60 and 70%. In other words, this means that you have to make an energy expenditure equivalent to 1 / 3 per barrel of oil to produce 1 barrel of wood oil.
In 1979, the Stanford Research Institute, in a comparative study on the costs of energy produced by the different sectors using biomass, estimated that a small plant dealing with
1000 t of wood per day by the Berkeley method, would produce oil at $ 48 a barrel which is high compared to the current price; but Sabri Ergun said that the data he had provided to the
Stanford Research Institute are already to be revised. Today, performance has improved and costs have dropped; wood oil could probably be produced commercially at about $ 29 per barrel, making it virtually competitive with the price of a barrel of oil sold
by OPEC. The raw material is almost free as it uses chips, waste from the wood industry; however, 26% of each tree cut down is thus lost in the form of chips.
The Berkeley team still hopes to improve the ratio of wood-oil weights and the quality of the product manufactured; indeed, the Albany plant was designed for the process developed by the
Bureau des Mines and it will have to be modified so that it is entirely suitable for the liquefaction of wood pre-treated with water and sulfuric acid.

Currently, Berkeley is expected to receive new barrels from Albany to conduct a series of tests on the oil produced. Currently, its quality seems
better suited to petrochemistry, while the US Energy Department, which finances the entire project, would prefer oil more suitable to replace gas oil or gasoline. " We know ",
explains Wrathall, "that our oil burns well, we know it can be distilled, that we can get gasoline after treatment, but we think it would be better used if it was used in industry plastics; in this case, we would hardly have to change the basic product we get. In any case, the result is the same, in
two cases we allow an economy of imported oil.
If the credits are not lacking, things can go very quickly: by the end of this year, the Albany pilot plant can be completely modified to be better adapted to the process;
from the beginning of next year, new tests will be carried out and by then April 1981, in possession of all the results, the team of Sabri Ergun thinks to be able to design the plans
of a commercial size plant this time, and that will turn 2000 t of wood chips a day into oil.


Version .pdf: ... 3OWVf5.pdf

Learn more about recent advances in biomass to oil conversion: ... -2989.html ... t4504.html

ps: it is not without recalling the famous "laigret petroleum": ... -3940.html ... t5802.html
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by dedeleco » 20/07/11, 15:19

Very interesting.

However, since fossil fuel and oil underground, there is a lot of it, what 10 to multiply the atmospheric CO2, (the case there is 56 million years, spontaneously!) And even what to burn all the oxygen that we breathe (!!!), it is not essential to make oil with biomass, but to store it effectively over millions of years underground, to compensate exactly the CO2 released by the combustion of fossil fuels! !
So just store this biomass (chips or liquefied wood, algae, in excess in Brittany ) in depleted oil wells, for example, in fixed amount of carbon equal to that of carbon passed in CO2 with fossil fuels !!
This biomass injected underground has a much more stable carbon (it will end slowly in oil underground) than the CO2 that we want to inject underground, which gas will go back much more easily !!

So the solution of injecting biomass underground (instead of CO2) would be much better removing all the steps of conversion to oil, which already exists underground any loan!

Oilers and gas companies should be forced to inject as much biomass carbon (liquefied wood, seaweed) underground as carbon fuel in the form of fossil fuels.

We would thus save the conversion of this biomass into oil or gas, often with a yield far from 100%, in fact absurd, since nature has done for millions of years for us!

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by Ahmed » 20/07/11, 22:02

The conversion of biomass into oil, as well as its underground storage for CO2 sequestration purposes, are views of the mind, not on principle (although for the first hypothesis I have many doubts about the performance announced), but on orders of magnitude.

Indeed, our excess in terms of energy consumption is such that the non-cumulative production of biomass is ridiculously low: remember that the French forest was saved by coal at the beginning of the 20e and by oil after the Second World War.

Massive use of biomass would have very significant consequences and accelerate the degradation of the environment, even if it would remain neutral from the point of view of CO2 (and positive in the case of the second hypothesis).

Theoretical speculations on energy crops (alternatives to deforestation looming) and their so-called lack of fertilizer (miscanthus), or their resistance to drought (jatropha *) are worthless claims: in reality if one wants a sufficient return (and the economy controls it) inputs are indispensable in the first case and good land for the second.
To stay on these two examples, these cultures rest, paradoxically, for one on the use of oil and for the other, more exotic, on a competition with food crops.

* Simple illustration of a "development" of an Ivorian forest:,55356
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by moinsdewatt » 20/07/11, 22:22

The use of forest waste to make fuel liquids is more in the direction of the manufacture of ethanol (so-called "cellulosic" ethanol) and not of shyntetic petroleum.

The industrialists are getting into cellulosic ethanol, particularly in Canada.

But the big problem as raised in the post above is actually the supply of raw materials.

Colossal quantities of materials are needed to make profitable plants.
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