Institute of Chemical Engineering
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Head of project group

Univ.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Hermann Hofbauer

Project Group: Synthetic Biofuels

Head: Univ.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Hermann Hofbauer


Dr. Reinhard Rauch is a national as well international recognised expert in the field of biomass gasification as well as synthesis applications like Fischer Tropsch or Methanation. He has got more than fifteen years experience in research development and implementation of biomass gasification processes, mainly focussed on the dual fluidised bed technology.


Reinhard Rauch has got an education in Technical Chemistry from Vienna University of Technology and carried out his diploma thesis in the field of biomass gasification in a dual fluidised bed. During his PhD he investigated the usage of the producer gas from biomass steam gasification for synthesis applications. Since 2000 he is responsible for most of the R&D project related to the demonstration plant in Güssing.

CHP Güssing (left), BioSNG demonstration plant (middle) and Technikum (right)

With the development of the biomass gasification technology at the Institute of Chemical Engineering and the successful implementation at the biomass CHP Güssing also other R&D topics than usage of the valuable product gas in a gas engine for CHP were considered. The main R&D work within this group focuses on production of synthetic biofuels e.g.:

  • Fischer Tropsch Diesel
  • BioSNG
  • Mixed Alcohols
  • Hydrogen

European projects (Renew, BioSNG) and national projects (Programme Energy Systems of Tomorrow, Climate and Energy Fund) are the main funding sources for these activities. Due to the success in developing these technologies the working group was growing over the past years and has now several researchers employed. The research group is fully financed from applied research project sources. Most of the projects are funded by national or European funds, but also direct funded projects by industry became more and more important in the past. There is also a close cooperation with the center of competence Bioenergy 2020+, where several PhD theses are shared.

The first synthesis, which was investigated, was the methanation to produce synthetic natural gas from biomass (BioSNG). Here the first experiments were already done in 1997 at the 100kW gasifier at the Institute and in 2003 the EC-project BioSNG started, where a 1MW (100Nm³/h BioSNG) demonstration plant was erected and operated. Within this project the whole chain from wood chips to usage of the BioSNG in a car was successfully demonstrated. The actual work here is to tests different sulphur resistant catalysts, to simplify the gas treatment.

The second synthesis was the Fischer Tropsch synthesis (FT) to produce Diesel from wood. This work started with the EC-project RENEW and a pilot plant with a capacity of 5kg/day FT products was designed, erected and optimised. As FT reactor here a slurry reactor is used, as it has several advantages compared to other technologies. The main R&D work here was the optimisation of the gas treatment and testing of different FT catalysts.

FT synthesis

Actually here the integration of the hydroprocessing is done, to scale down this technology also for smaller scale. In addition the up-scaling of the gas treatment was done in cooperation with the company SGC Energia and now the gas treatment for the capacity of 1bpd is available in Güssing.

Both above described synthesis are extremely sensitive to sulphur poisoning. Therefore also a robust synthesis was investigated. The synthesis of mixed alcohols uses a MoS catalyst and this catalyst is resistant to sulphur poisoning. Here also a pilot plant to convert about 5 Nm³/h of product gas from the biomass CHP Güssing is operated. The main aim of this work is to get an insight into this synthesis and to get enough measured data to establish the mass- and energy balances for a commercial plant.

Hydrogen is already along time in discussion as clean energy carrier. To be also CO2 neutral, hydrogen has to be produced from renewable sources. Actually the cheapest option to produce renewable hydrogen is over biomass gasification. Here a techno-economic study together with OMV was done and based on these results a 50MW demonstration plant near the refinery in Austria is planed. To verify the design of the demonstration plant, a pilot plant is designed at the moment as a slip stream of the biomass CHP Güssing and by end of 2012, this pilot plant should be already in operation. The main aim of this work is to get more data for the design of the demonstration plant, and to test also the different steps on long term.

All in all the biomass CHP Güssing developed over the last years to a synthesis gas platform, where different pathways from wood chips to transportation fuels and chemicals are investigated. Also at the second biomass CHP in Oberwart, the first projects on producing valuable gases from wood are in their final step.

On both plants the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Bioenergy 2020+ are doing the main R&D to develop these technologies further and to introduce them, together with their industrial partners, into the market.

Projects in Cooperation with Bioenergy2020+

Bioenergy 2020+: