Agreement made to research conversion of biomass into transportation fuel

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and ExxonMobil have entered into a two year agreement to research the conversion of biomass into fuel.

By ExxonMobil December 16, 2015

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and ExxonMobil have announced a two-year agreement to research the fundamental chemistry of converting biomass into transportation fuels. The research is a part of a broad effort to identify meaningful and scalable technology to meet increasing global energy demand.

UW-Madison is known for its expertise in biomass conversion, and the project uses the University’s expertise alongside the resources and technology development of ExxonMobil. George Huber, the Harvey D. Spangler professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison, is working closely with ExxonMobil scientists to build a stronger understanding of the basic chemical transformations that occur during biomass conversion into diesel and jet fuels.

"The science of biomass conversion is very complicated," Huber said. "In this project we are doing the long-term fundamental research to understand the chemistry involved in the catalytic process of converting biomass into diesel and jet fuel. Our goal is to generate knowledge about what’s possible, and what’s not possible."

The project allows extensive collaboration between ExxonMobil scientists and UW-Madison students, who will gain experience collaborating with an industrial partner. Researchers have used expensive precious metal catalysts such as platinum for biomass conversion. Huber’s group, however, has been working to develop new catalytic materials that are cheaper than precious metal catalysts.

"The challenge is to make biomass derived fuels cost-competitive with petroleum derived diesel fuels," said Huber, who also is affiliated with the Wisconsin Energy Institute at UW-Madison.

– Edited by Eric R. Eissler, editor-in-chief, Oil & Gas Engineering, eeissler@cfemedia.com

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