Focus & Recent Advancements
Bio-derived chemicals represent a secure, renewable, and environmentally responsible alternative to petroleum-derived chemicals. Currently, approximately 13% of the crude oil consumed by the United States is used for nonfuel chemical production. A joint report by the DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that U.S. agricultural and forest sources can renewably supply a billion tons per year of lignocellulosic biomass. This amount of biomass would not satisfy U.S. fuel demands, but could theoretically replace petrochemical feedstocks for chemical production with much higher value as compared to fuel. At Southern Research, we’re using renewable, domestic resources — such as wood or grass — to create chemical intermediates for use in the development of products typically dependent on the refining of foreign oil.
We’re currently developing a process for a biomass derived sugars conversion to acrylonitrile and other alternative fuels. Our coal/biomass liquefaction processes can be used to produce renewable fuel to supplement petroleum based gasoline and diesel. We’ re also working on processes to produce bio-derived chemicals for use in paints, food ingredients, baby diapers, fabrics and many more everyday products. And we’re doing it all with what is essentially waste — not food crops.
Capabilities and Expertise
SR has developed a new business focused on development of catalysts, sorbents and sustainable processes utilizing these materials. We employ experts in a variety of fields critical to sustainable process development, including catalyst/sorbent development, chemical engineering, process intensification, mechanical engineering, separations, analytical chemistry, techno-economic and life cycle analysis. These experts are working on technologies to 1) convert 2nd gen biomass sugars and lignin to high value chemicals, 2) convert coal and biomass mixtures to fuels, 3) use sulfur tolerant catalysts for reforming and gasification applications, 4) improve separations for chemical processes, 5) lower complexity and energy consumption of intensive industrial process, 6) continuously monitor varied product streams to determine process stability, and 7) study the role of impurities in different types feed streams and impact on industrial processes. Our group has the capability to independently validate new technologies, develop new solutions, and consult on a wide-range of topics – from catalyst design and testing to market and techno-economic analysis of new processes.