Project meeting of STEP at the site of the company ATS - Agro Trading & Solutions in Hardegsen (Photo: DBFZ)

Biomethane strategy Biofuels

Project ID 03KB028

SNG/LPG - SNG and LPG from biogenic waste materials : technical feasibility and market potential

Biofuels from biogenic residues, e.g. sunflower oil (Photo: Fraunhofer UMSICHT)


  • 01.09.2009 – 30.11.2011


Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT
Osterfelder Straße 3
46047 Oberhausen

Dr.-Ing. Volker Heil – project leader
Telephone: +49 (0) 208-8598-1163


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03KB028 - Lehrstuhl für Thermodynamik an der Fakultät Bio- und Chemieingenieurwesen der TU Dortmund


The project explores the technical feasibility of producing high-grade hydrocarbon gas mixtures such as Substitute Natural Gas (SNG) or Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) from bio-based oil residues and non-edible oils. Glycerol from biodiesel production, fatty acids and oil residues from the fatty acid and vegetable oil processing Industries will be tested as potential feedstock substances.


For the first time, the application of catalytic cracking for the specific conversion of vegetable oils and fats and their derivatives into fuel gases of high calorific value will be investigated. The project will generate reliable information on which feedstock can be used for this purpose, suitable catalysts and process conditions and the achievable product qualities.

Based upon the experimental results, a potential study carried out shall portrait the most important end products and their applications and compares them to each other and to the competing feedstock utilization routes. With the products “bio-SNG” and “bio-LPG”, the project eyes in particular both of the fuel grade gas mixtures of the mobility sector (Liquified Petroleum Gas LPG and Compressed Natural Gas CNG).

A special target product of the project is a mixture of fuel gas (LPG or similar gas composition), which can be used to upgrade bio-methane into bio-SNG for use in existing gas distribution systems.

Finally, the process development will lead to a preliminary basic design, thereby transfering the lab-scale process into small technical scale and production scale. Moreover, first reliable estimates of expectable costs of production will be presented.


The catalytic cracking over micro- and mesoporous catalysts is a known process to transform vegetable and animal oil and grease as well as their derivates into oxygen-free hydrocarbon-compounds. Normally, gaseous hydrocarbons are formed as by-products. In this project, a lab scale plant for gas production by catalytic cracking shall be developed. Various feedstocks will be tested by varying the process parameters and catalysts, and the products will be examined by gas chromatography. Furthermore, it will be tested experimentally to what extent the use of a substrate mix does effect the conversion.

Based upon laboratory results, the scale-up of the process into pilot and production scale will be prepared. Setting up an ASPEN PlusTM flowsheet simulation, based upon a 2-reactor process model, will allow calculating the most relevant mass and energy flows. First costing calculations will use the ASPEN-internal costing model as well as Taylor’s “process step counting” method.

This potential study will also focus on the market potential of the bio-based LPG/SNG products which are not yet available on today’s market. Appropriate first launching scenarios will take possible synergies by blending the products with conventionally produced bio-methane / biogas into account.

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