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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Mar 20;104(12):4828-33. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

Sustainable fuel for the transportation sector.

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School of Chemical Engineering and Energy Center at Discovery Park, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


A hybrid hydrogen-carbon (H(2)CAR) process for the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels is proposed wherein biomass is the carbon source and hydrogen is supplied from carbon-free energy. To implement this concept, a process has been designed to co-feed a biomass gasifier with H(2) and CO(2) recycled from the H(2)-CO to liquid conversion reactor. Modeling of this biomass to liquids process has identified several major advantages of the H(2)CAR process. (i) The land area needed to grow the biomass is <40% of that needed by other routes that solely use biomass to support the entire transportation sector. (ii) Whereas the literature estimates known processes to be able to produce approximately 30% of the United States transportation fuel from the annual biomass of 1.366 billion tons, the H(2)CAR process shows the potential to supply the entire United States transportation sector from that quantity of biomass. (iii) The synthesized liquid provides H(2) storage in an open loop system. (iv) Reduction to practice of the H(2)CAR route has the potential to provide the transportation sector for the foreseeable future, using the existing infrastructure. The rationale of using H(2) in the H(2)CAR process is explained by the significantly higher annualized average solar energy conversion efficiency for hydrogen generation versus that for biomass growth. For coal to liquids, the advantage of H(2)CAR is that there is no additional CO(2) release to the atmosphere due to the replacement of petroleum with coal, thus eliminating the need to sequester CO(2).

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