The current biobased alternatives for aviation fuel (HVO/HEFA) largely depend on used cooking oil and animal fats. These are not only scarce, collection is also laborious because they are used in limited quantities in dispersed locations. They are therefore not expected to be able to meet the fuel demand and sustainability targets of the aviation sector.
The HIGFLY project will focus on biofuels that are abundantly available and sustainable, namely the underutilised and challenging C5 saccharide (hemicellulose) fraction from lignocellulosic biomass and equivalent carbohydrates in other biomasses and biorefinery streams.
To this end, HIGFLY is developing a combination of technologies for the production of furfural and bio-oxygenates using new reactor technology, catalysts and solvents, and for the catalytic upgrading of these intermediates to paraffin grade hydrocarbons suitable for blending with jet fuel.
Furfural, a key building block of the HIGFLY process, has been produced from agricultural residues for almost a century, and was mostly used for the production of materials and chemicals such as resins, foams, pharmaceuticals and solvents. However, the production processes have remained unchanged and inefficient over the years, with traditional methods extracting less than 50% of the total furfural potential.
Initial tests at laboratory scale show that with the HIGFLY method a yield of 70-80% is achievable in a microreactor. It is expected that this could rise to 90% in the newly developed HiGee reactor. Preliminary research by TNO, Johnson Matthey and Fraunhofer has already demonstrated the viability of the technology.
HIGFLY is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Coordinator of the consortium is TU Eindhoven (TU/e) in the Netherlands. Other partners are TNO, SkyNRG, CSIC, Boeing, KNEIA, Fraunhofer, IFEU and Johnson Matthey. See the website for more information.