Biofuel production using petroleum refining technologies

Part of Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.

Exploring the production of low-carbon fuels with bio-intermediates in existing refineries

What is the aim of this project?

This project aims to explore the production of low-carbon fuels by co-processing in existing petroleum refineries the bio-intermediates produced from the liquefaction of biomass. This would enable a seamless and lower-cost introduction of these oleochemical/biocrude intermediates in transport fuel markets by using existing refinery infrastructure. The goal is to produce low carbon intensity fuels that will be needed by the “hard to decarbonise” long-distance transport sectors such as aviation, maritime transport and long-distance trucking.

How could this technology be explained to a high school student?

When biomass materials (natural organic matters such as forest residues, wood waste or crops) are heated in the absence of oxygen, they can produce a liquid (bio-oil or bio-crude) as well as some gas and solid fuels. This liquid can be processed into low-carbon fuels using existing petroleum refining technologies.

What is the value of this project for society?

  • lowers the cost of producing advanced biofuels by using existing infrastructure
  • enables repurposing of existing petroleum refineries to produce low carbon intensity fuels
  • reduces the carbon footprint of aviation and long-distance travel
  • enables the use of non-food biomass to produce transport fuels.

At what stage of development is this project?

This project started in January 2019 and this initial stage is expected to end by December 2021

What government policies could bring this from the lab to the market?

  • putting an economic value on the carbon intensity of fuels (e.g. the Californian Low Carbon Fuels Standard)
  • including co-processing (in existing refineries with fossil fuels) in incentive schemes; implementing tracing of bio-components in refinery outputs 
  • supporting (or mandating) a share of renewable fuels in international aviation or marine markets.
Bio Oil From Direct Thermochemical Biomass Liquefaction And Refined Fuels

Bio Oil From Direct Thermochemical Biomass Liquefaction And Refined Fuels. Source: Bioenergy TCP.

Partners and founders


  • University of British Columbia (Canada)
  • Aalborg University (Denmark)
  • BTG (Netherlands)
  • VTT (Finland)
  • PNNL (US)
  • Other members of Bioenergy TCP Tasks 34 and 39.


  • Bioenergy TCP membership.

Learn more

About the Technology Collaboration Programme on Bioenergy (Bioenergy TCP)

The aim of the Bioenergy TCP, created in 1976, is to increase knowledge and understanding of bioenergy systems in order to facilitate the commercialisation and market deployment of environmentally sound, socially acceptable and cost-competitive low-carbon bioenergy systems and technologies, and to advise policy makers and industrial decision makers accordingly.