Air Liquide has just signed a partnership agreement with the CEA (Commission for atomic energy and alternative energies in France) aiming to develop a second-generation biofuel production pilot unit in France.

As part of this partnership, the CEA will develop a chain of processes – on the Bure (Meuse) - Saudron (Haute-Marne) site, and in the CEA-Grenoble centre – for grinding, pressurising, measuring, and transporting solid biomass (wood in particular) in order to inject it into a burner, with a view to minimising the energy used for this pre-processing.

For this project, Air Liquide will develop a new combustion technology that uses a burner running on oxygen instead of air. This pressurised, high-temperature oxygen combustion will make it possible to transform solid biomass directly into synthesis gas.

The synthesis gas made by this process can then be processed to ultimately produce an extremely pure and energy-efficient synthesis fuel. All of the R&D work related to pressurised combustion with oxygen will be carried out in Air Liquide’s Research Centres in Paris Saclay (France), Frankfurt (Germany), and Newark (USA, Delaware), as well as in partnership with international research institutes.

This work will contribute to the eventual emergence of a new sector for creating value from this biomass through second-generation biofuels. As part of its policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, the European Union has set an objective of 20% of renewable energies used within the EC by 2020. Unlike first-generation biofuels, second-generation biofuels use agricultural and forestry waste, without competing with food usage.

François Darchis, Senior Vice-President and a member of Air Liquide’s Executive Committee, commented, “We are delighted about this research partnership with the CEA, which is a leading French player in the field of energy. Air Liquide is involved in concrete projects that aim to develop cleaner energies: second-generation biofuels and hydrogen energy will help to reduce CO2 emissions in the coming years. Innovation is at the core of Air Liquide’s strategy.”