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Movanta: turning wet waste streams into valuable green fuels

Breathing new life into a technology previously developed by Shell and TNO. From 2027, the spin-off Movanta aims to convert large quantities of organic waste streams into biocrude, a sustainable product that resembles crude oil. This biocrude can then be processed quite easily at existing plants into green fuels such as biodiesel or biokerosene (SAF). Hydro Thermal Upgrading (HTU) is a promising technology that can significantly reduce the use of oil.

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150,000 tonnes per year

TNO is a co-shareholder in Movanta, which was founded by some former Shell employees in partnership with a major investor. In 2023, feasibility studies will be finalised and potential sites identified. A final investment decision is due in 2024, after which construction of the plant can begin. This should be operational by early 2027 to process 150,000 tonnes of waste streams annually.

Processing a wide variety of waste

The advantage of the HTU process at the proposed plant is that, in principle, it can process a wide variety of organic waste: vegetable waste streams from the agricultural sector, fractions of domestic waste, manure, and sewage sludge. These are now often burnt with great difficulty. Once the technical and financial feasibility has been demonstrated, nothing will stand in the way of building an initial plant. Given the huge amounts of organic waste streams in Europe and elsewhere in the world, this HTU technology could make a major contribution to replacing fossil fuels.

High efficiency

The HTU process has very high thermal efficiency, enabling some 80% of the energy present in the waste to be recovered. This is done in a continuous reactor under high temperature (350 degrees Celsius) and pressure (150 bar). The resulting biocrude is then split into a light clean fraction (LCR) and a heavy solid (HCR). The LCR can be processed into green diesel and kerosene for heavy transport by road, water, and air. Moreover, green hydrogen can also be produced from the LCR on a competitive basis. HCR serves as a substitute for fertiliser or as a raw material for the construction industry, among other things.

Replacing oil

In the coming period, TNO is conducting lab and other research to further refine the HTU process. This involves testing a wide range of waste streams. The aim is to valorise apparently worthless material as much as possible. The idea is to collect the waste streams regionally and process them into sustainable products at an HTU plant. By processing biomass, HTU technology could potentially replace at least 10% of global demand for oil.

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