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6/10/2021 Embedding innovation  | Sustainability

Potential for new high-yielding bioLPG production revealed

Butyric acid

SHV Energy collaboration with Aston University reveals potential for new high-yielding bioLPG production. As a global energy group, we recognise and embrace the challenge to continue to provide essential energy solutions to off-grid customers that are environmentally friendly and contribute to a more sustainable future.

High-yielding route to bioLPG
The production of biopropane produced from biomass or waste feedstocks is one of the key areas where we have been focusing to find new solutions. Our recent research partnership with Aston University contributes a new possible route to bioLPG that has a much higher yield than the current processes that only have a 5% yield. 

This new route being researched, uses biologically derived feedstock, butyric acid, (the chemical formed when butter goes sour or rancid). It can then be transformed over a catalyst to make propane and carbon dioxide, with 95% yield to propane. 
Dr Keith Simons, Principal Scientist SHV Energy commented on the potential of this research, “LPG is an essential clean-burning fuel for off-grid communities and has traditionally been obtained as a by-product from petrochemical and natural gas extraction. What is exciting about this research is that they are applying novel thinking to perform “on-purpose” high-yielding production of biopropane from bio-derived feedstocks.”

Dr Jude Onwudili, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Aston University and Principal Investigator of the project, commented, “We are proud to be supporting SHV Energy’s global ambition to defossilise their LPG business with our world-class research capability at the Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI). Our technical solution is based on a relatively simple catalytic process that uses sustainable biomass-derived feedstocks to make bioLPG components at high yields.“ 

Future work will be to transform the laboratory model into an industrial process, which would involve further collaboration with the university and other partners and include more research into the production of commercial volumes of butyric acid. Just as milk to produce butter is the result of biological transformation of grass, industrial routes to convert biomass directly into butyric acid will be targeted. 

Open innovation
SHV Energy looks to the future, seeking new products and new ways to deliver solutions. Innovation is a core capability within the SHV Energy group, that helps us to gather insights, knowledge, and ideas from colleagues worldwide to support our businesses and customers.
As part of the open innovation challenges that SHV Energy is investigating, we develop new partnerships, including investment in academics who can research and develop new routes that have potential for future exploitation. 

A focus for innovation & partnerships
Through our innovation portal we publish open innovation challenges to seek new relationships or partnerships who share our focus and ambition. We also regularly attend networking events or give public presentations reaching out to organisations, academic institutions or individual scientists; and with investment from SHV Energy, co-develop new sustainable production routes for both our existing and future energy products.The research partnership with Aston University, UK is a recent example of this approach.

Published article: Parametric Study of Pt/C-Catalysed Hydrothermal Decarboxylation of Butyric Acid as a Potential Route for Biopropane Production
Dr. Iram Razaq & Dr. Jude Onwudili (University of Aston), Dr Keith Simons (SHV Energy).

This research was originally co-funded by the Supergen Bioenergy Hub