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Bio-Oil Injection and Attraction Industrial: A CDR Primer | by Soren Vines | AlliedOffsets | Aug, 2023

Co-written by Livia Duprez


As emphasised in the latest IPCC report, carbon dioxide removing (CDR) applied sciences could have an instrumental position in reaching the 1.5 diploma goal.

On the forefront of the CDR supply and credit score purchases is Attraction Industrial — an organization specializing in bio-oil injection, a CDR know-how that takes waste biomass, places it by means of pyrolysis, and traps the residue oil deep inside the Earth.

The method of making bio-oil is much like that creating biochar by way of biomass acquisition and pyrolytic strategies, however distinguishes itself in its permanence and sturdiness: 10,000+ years¹ of permanence with bio-oil in comparison with roughly 1,000 years² with massive error bars that encompass it.³

Attraction Industrial is the solitary CDR bio-oil venture developer, and it has delivered 6,000+ tCO2e, which is barely surpassed by a handful of biochar corporations. Attraction has additionally pre-sold roughly 160,000 credit, making it the fifth largest holder of future credit inside the CDR house, virtually double the quantity of Climeworks.

Determine 1: Darkish inexperienced — Biochar; Teal — bio-oil; Regular Inexperienced — Enhanced Rock Weathering; Black — CO2 utilisation. Information from AlliedOffsets — combine of knowledge from CDR.FYI, Puro Earth and on-line article information.

Whereas bio-oil shines in its supply and permanence, it’s helpful to match this to its sister know-how: biochar. The common unit price of biochar is roughly $200, with bio-oil being $600. Biochar has been seen as probably the most scalable know-how inside CDR on account of its low storage and manufacturing price. Each profit from course of familiarity: bio-oil and biochar have been used inside the final century for varied industrial functions. Biochar is used as a fertiliser, whereas bio-oil is a essential constituent of bio-fuel, each having already massive provide chains that may be retrofitted into CDR strategies.

How will bio-oil scale sooner or later, why is the fee a lot increased than biochar, and why is Attraction Industrial each so profitable and (to this point) the one participant out there? Learn this weblog to seek out out.

What’s bio-oil?

Bio-oil, additionally known as biomass oil or pyrolysis oil, is a biologically-based CDR know-how much like biochar and BECCS. The method takes biomass feedstock and pyrolyzes it. This includes heating biomass to excessive temperatures (400–500℃) within the absence of oxygen to carbonate the biomass into extra everlasting kind, trapping the carbon from CO2 into three constituent stays: bio-oil, biochar, and ash (in addition to syngas). The bio-oil is handled and injected deep into the Earth for everlasting storage; the biochar and ash are then put again into the sphere as a fertiliser.

How is bio-oil completely different from biochar?

Bio-oil is a black liquid that’s constituted of heating biomass at excessive temperatures, whereas biochar is a stable porous materials that has over 60 completely different makes use of, from pillow stuffings to fertiliser (you possibly can learn our biochar primer right here).

The 2 merchandise share the preliminary processes of accumulating waste biomass and pyrolysing it to create substances to keep away from launch of CO2 into the environment. Nevertheless, the pyrolysis course of differs barely on account of a mix of residence time and temperature.

These properties can usually be damaged into quick pyrolysis and gradual pyrolysis within the determine 2 under, the place quick pyrolysis is excessive temperature and low residence time, whereas gradual pyrolysis is decrease temperature and excessive residence time. Notice that, usually, pyrolysis merchandise are: ash, biochar, bio-oil, and syngas, and completely different heats and residence occasions simply change the portions of every.

Determine 2: Graph of temperature (linear) vs time (logarithmic), for pyrolysis from biochar worldwide.

Gradual pyrolysis at decrease temperatures of 300–500℃ is used to maximise biochar yield, producing roughly 20–40% biochar. To oversimplify, the longer it stays in at a low temperature, the extra the biomass decomposes and turns into a stable. Whereas bio-oil can be produced throughout gradual pyrolysis, it’s of decrease high quality and decreased yield at round 15–30%. This bio-oil is often used as carbon impartial gasoline to doubtlessly warmth up pyrolysis tools or heating. Gradual pyrolysis as a biochar developer is usually extra beneficial, as it’s cheaper and requires much less superior data to function. It’s additionally cheaper at roughly $100,000 per pyrolysis gadget, that means a low entry barrier.

Quick pyrolysis, then again, usually ends in the next yield of liquid bio-oil: round 60–75% of complete output. The speedy heating means of seconds to minutes and temperatures of 500℃ encourage the formation of unstable compounds that condense into bio-oil. When utilizing quick pyrolysis, biochar yield is often 5–15%, which is lower than half the biochar yield from gradual pyrolysis. Nevertheless, relying on the economics and scale of the operation, this course of could also be extra power environment friendly and biochar producers might go for an optimised quick pyrolysis method.

Quick pyrolysis tools is often way more costly as an upfront capital funding at roughly $500k to $1m, which is a big differentiator in the price of biochar vs bio-oil, giving the next barrier to entry for conventional bio-char builders as they must elevate extra capital to maintain overheads for technical employees and buy upfront tools. Subsequently, prices and tacit technological data are important boundaries to entry.

What makes bio-oil completely different from bio-fuel?

So after understanding the distinction between bio-oil and biochar, what about biofuel? Bio-oil is a essential constituent of bio-fuel, which has a big world market that has been valued at $117 billion in 2022, with 45 billion litres of biofuel produced per 12 months¹⁰. This statistic would means that the bio-fuel trade might change into a significant participant within the CDR market with bio-oil injection, contemplating bio-fuel corporations are already growing the substance at scale.

The bio-fuel trade dates again to the late 1800s, however massive industrial curiosity spiked in World Conflict II, on account of a scarcity in conventional fossil fuels. At the moment, biofuels are already included in 5% of all of all unleaded fuels within the UK, and 10% in E10 fuels throughout Europe¹¹. This means there’s a massive infrastructure that bio-oil injection might faucet into and be developed from.

This results in the query, what makes bio-oil sequestration completely different from bio-fuel creation, stopping the bio-fuel trade from pivoting into bio-oil sequestration?

Determine 3: Bio-oil and Attraction Industrial Employee

Bio-fuel builders supposedly have already got the capital and tacit data to develop and repurpose their provide chain to help bio-oil injection, so it’s attention-grabbing to see why this will not occur. There are a number of causes for this:

Feedstock: One distinction between bio-oil and bio-fuel is the bottom feedstock. Bio-oil for sequestration makes use of low power, low worth crop feedstock and residue. As an illustration, Attraction Industrial usually makes use of waste corn stalks, leaves, and husks which have a variable provide of roughly 860m t/yr within the US, in keeping with a patent held by the corporate.¹² Attraction is additional seeking to diversify this feedstock provide with timber and crops from forests to forestall forest fires or within the aftermath of droughts; these are all low worth, low power crops.¹³ By using waste biomass, Attraction Industrial prevents its decomposition by micro organism, which might in any other case launch CO2 again into the environment, making this course of environmentally pleasant.

These low power crops distinction to excessive power crops which are used for bio-fuel, reminiscent of corn and sugarcane, that are extra optimum for burning and gasoline era, and are usually extra priceless than waste biomass on account of their power content material for burning.

Sometimes, massive bio-fuel builders have vertically built-in their feedstock provide chain which suggests that switching prices in addition to variable provide of waste biomass is one thing that poses inherent dangers. Utilizing waste biomass is extra environmentally pleasant and is more cost effective for smaller organisations. Nevertheless, it additionally does pose a threat of some massive aggregatory prices as bio-oil injection corporations scale, with inherent dangers of variable provide because the substance could also be troublesome to logistically mixture on a 12 months on 12 months foundation.

Remedy of bio-oil for biofuel manufacturing

Whereas bio-oil can be utilized as a gasoline supply with restricted post-treatment, it’s not probably the most optimum for burning with out further therapy.

As a base constituent of biofuel, bio-oil is often handled through hydrodeoxygenation, a expensive course of that’s the essential differentiator between bio-oil injection and bio-fuel manufacturing. This course of includes hydrogen molecules reacting with oxygen-containing teams within the bio-oil below excessive stress, creating easy hydrocarbon molecules and water. This will increase the steadiness of bio-oil, lowers its viscosity, and enhances compatibility with additional refinery processes, reminiscent of distillation¹⁴ and mixing.¹⁵ Distillation and mixing are additionally concerned within the therapy course of for bio-oil injection, indicating some overlap between the bio-fuel and CDR trade, however the diploma and scale wanted aren’t but plentiful sufficient for bio-fuel corporations to make the swap.

Remedy of bio-oil for injection and sequestration

Injection of bio-oil into subsurface wells is a precarious and complicated course of. Attraction Industrial checks for and modifies bio-oil to mitigate in opposition to potential points. Some remedies and properties of bio-oil that must happen so as to make the method secure and secure embrace:

  • Bio-oil usually has a pH of two.5–3.0:¹⁶ that is corrosive for tools, properly casings, and rock formations — generally the pH of the liquid can destabilise the properly. Bio-oil is often modified by means of the addition of diluents reminiscent of water, buffers, or mixing actions, reminiscent of including vegetable or sunflower oil and thereby elevating the pH of the substance to a secure stage of the corresponding properly.
  • Excessive viscosity and an inclination to auto-polymerise: auto polymerisation is a course of describing the tendency of small molecules reacting collectively below stress to kind lengthy chains that make fluids extra sticky. This could clog injection wells. To keep away from cloggings, bio-oil may be diluted with water and sunflower oil.
  • Flash level: this is the temperature of ignition, and bio-oil usually has a low flash level (e.g. under 60℃), making it a fireplace or explosion hazard. That is accounted for by elevating the flashpoint by means of cases of distillation and mixing that are processes shared by the bio-fuel trade.
  • Potential for microbial development or interplay: this may be problematic on account of potential gas-generating reactions that may launch CO2, methane, or different gaseous merchandise. That is usually mitigated by heating the oil to temperatures of over 100℃ below managed situations (to not ignite the fabric) and sterilising the fluid. The bio-oil is then examined for microbial exercise utilizing a conveyable microbiology check equipment.

If not addressed, any of the above can improve stress within the properly, which may trigger leaks and have an effect on the permanence of the carbon sequestration.

Given the similarities between bio-oil injection and the method of making bio-fuel, bio-fuel corporations might start to pivot to the bio-oil injection trade. Nevertheless, provided that voluntary carbon markets and the demand for carbon sequestration are nonetheless unproven, bio-fuel corporations probably see it as too dangerous in the intervening time.

As a recap of all the bio-oil creation and sequestration course of see determine 4. The therapy would occur between second transport and injection on this stream chart.

Determine 4: The Attraction Industrail course of, in easy phrases.

This makes bio-oil sequestration a troublesome market to enter, requiring area experience, an emphasis on security, and novel know-how — serving to to clarify why Attraction Industrial has no opponents within the CDR house to this point.

Attraction Industrial additionally has a patent for this therapy course of, which doubtlessly might inhibit opponents from getting into the market with related methodologies, in addition to making it extra interesting to buyers. On the regulatory stage, Attraction has additionally been authorized by the EPA Underground Injection Management program, a course of which may take a few years to perform. The corporate estimates it has safely sequestered 6,209 tons of CO2.

Attraction Industrial was based in 2018 in San Fransisco and has acquired over $100M in funding since its inceptio). In 2020, the corporate utilized to and was accepted into Frontier Local weather, a sophisticated market dedication that pooled corporations reminiscent of Shopify and Stripe collectively to fund experimental however important R&D to spur the CDR market. On its utility in 2020, Attraction predicted the worth per ton to drop to $175 and anticipated capability to go from 10,000 tonnes to 1m tCO2 per 12 months by 2025.

These 2020 projections proved considerably bullish, with Attraction having sequestered 6,200 tCO2 to this point. Nevertheless, its success up to now has led to 2 main contracts: the Frontier dedication valued at $53 million for 112,000 tons of carbon to be delivered between 2024 and 2030; and an settlement with JP Morgan Chase, focusing on the removing of 29,000 metric tons of carbon removing over 5 years. To place this into context, Attraction is the sixth largest holder of future credit inside the CDR market, with 160,000 tonnes anticipated to be delivered, and is barely eclipsed by the likes of enormous BECCS and DAC builders reminiscent of Drax, Orsted, and 1PointFive.

For extra data on the CDR house, take a look at our public dashboard! If you happen to’re a shopper, log into our database to be taught extra about Attraction Industrial and 500+ different CDR corporations we observe.

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