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Green gasoline from sewage sludge: Ground-breaking ceremony for Fraunhofer demonstration plant

The starting signal for the construction of a TCR plant for the production of biofuels from sewage sludge fell on Wednesday (7.11.2018) in Hohenburg in the district of Amberg-Sulzbach. Commissioning is planned for early 2020.


The demonstration plant will be able to convert 500 kg of dried sewage sludge into around 50 liters of biofuel and biodiesel per hour. It is part of the EU project »TO-SYN-FUEL«, which is managed by the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT in Sulzbach-Rosenberg and implemented by Susteen Technologies and other international partners. In total, EUR 12 million in EU funding will be available until 2020.

The guests included the administrator of the district Amberg-Sulzbach Richard Reisinger, the 1st mayor of Hohenburg, Florian Junkes, the head of the Fraunhofer Institute Sulzbach-Rosenberg and co-founder of Susteen Technologies GmbH, Prof. Dr. med. Andreas Hornung and the project manager TO-SYN-FUEL, Dr. Robert Daschner. As a guest of honor, the former rally world champion Walter Röhrl had come to the ground-breaking ceremony at the invitation of the client Karl-Heinz Stiegler.

Project objective: CO2-neutral fuel - produced locally

Project manager Robert Daschner says of the goals: »We want to establish a new process chain for CO2-neutral, liquid fuel from biogenic residues - from the raw materials, in this case sewage sludge, to the standard diesel and gasoline, which we can use without adaptation in conventional engines, with the demonstrator in Hohenburg we want to show that our technology is applicable on an industrial scale and that the fuel produced can be offered at competitive prices. «

Hohenburg offers numerous advantages as a location for the Fraunhofer facility. There is many years of experience on site in the drying and handling of municipal sewage sludge, and the quantities and quality of feedstock required in the project are available all year round. In addition, the geographical situation in the Upper Palatinate corresponds to a basic idea of ​​the project, to utilize the input materials where they occur.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Hornung, head of the Fraunhofer Institute Sulzbach-Rosenberg says: »Our guiding principle is the decentralized refinery. In other words, compared to the petrochemical industry, we rely on relatively small plants that generate the fuel where the waste biomass is created. On the one hand, this reduces the number of transports and, at the same time, creates new opportunities for local value creation, for example in municipalities or agriculture. «

Synthetic fuels based on waste biomass also have the advantage that the raw materials do not compete with agricultural land for food production.

Background Fraunhofer TCR method

The TCR® (Thermo Catalytic Reforming) process developed by Prof. Hornung together with Fraunhofer and the Fraunhofer spin-off Susteen Technologies can utilize not only sewage sludge, but also a broad base of biomass and residues, for example wood residues, fermentation residues from biogas plants, waste from the beverage industry and paper production or municipal biowaste fractions. Prof. Andreas Hornung: »The plant in the TO-SYN-FUEL project represents a temporary culmination of my research in the field of thermochemical conversion of biomass and plastics. The technology used is now technically mature and ready for use in the market.«

In addition to high-quality oil as an intermediate for fuel production, the TCR process produces product gas and bio-carbon. These components can be used for power generation or as soil improvers. Due to the high hydrogen content of the product gas, it is also economically feasible for the first time to carry out an on-site hydrogenation of the oils and to produce standardized fuels locally.

Source: Fraunhofer UMSICHT (c) 2018

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