CLARA Project - Chemical Looping Gasification


Spring 2020

A Novel Process for the Production of Biofuels Allowing for Net Negative CO2 Emissions

While notable advances towards a de-carbonization of the energy sector have been achieved in recent years, closing the carbon cycle of the transport sector, which is responsible for almost one quarter of the European GHGE emissions2 and consumes 36% of the global final energy1, still signifies a key challenge on the way towards a carbon-neutral society. A major hurdle standing in the way of this goal is the substitution of fossil fuels in heavy freight transport and aviation industry, where electrification is currently not a viable option. In light of current policies and strategies related to climate protection and energy transition, implemented in order to further promote carbonneutral transport, novel, sustainable, and yet competitive technologies are urgently needed.

One auspicious pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of the transport sector is the large-scale roll-out of so-called 2nd generation biofuels, which are produced from bio-based residue materials. By focusing on biological non-foodgrade precursors, this approach contributes not only to a sustainable shifting from fossil to renewable resources, but also facilitates the large-scale economic production of biofuels, without detrimental effects on food availability and prices arising. Yet, one key issue generally related to 2nd generation biofuels is their high production cost, which make them uncompetitive in the current fossil fuel governed market environment.

To alleviate this problem, an efficient technology for the production of liquid fuels based on chemical looping gasification (CLG) of biogenic residues is being developed within the scope of the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project CLARA3, executed by thirteen international members including universities, research institutes, and industry partners. The combination of CLG, which does not rely on costly air separation, with other novel technologies related to biomass pre-treatment and gas cleaning yields a process chain, allowing for major reductions in biofuel production costs, so that final end-product prices as low as 0.7 €/l can be realized. Moreover, the suggested process chain facilitates net negative CO2 emissions, as carbon of biogenic origin can be captured effi ciently within the process, before being sequestered (CCS) or utilized (CCU).


These aspects, in combination with projected advances in terms of process scalability, make the suggested process chain an auspicious carbon-negative value chain, promising an efficient decarbonization of the transport sector, while at the same time guaranteeing market compatibility. Within the scope of the CLARA project, the entire biomass-to-biofuel process chain, schematically shown in the figure above, is to be investigated in 1 MWth pilot scale, thus further propelling the novel technologies towards market maturity in an industrially relevant environment

Further information:

1. International Energy Agency, Key World Energy Statistics 2018. OECD, 2018.
2. Transport emissions - A European Strategy for low-emission mobility,
3. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 817841.