Cablegate: French Petroleum Institute - Researching Sustainable Energy

DE RUEHFR #0033/01 0081631
R 081631Z JAN 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. SUMMARY. ESTH officers visited the French Petroleum Institute
(Institut Francais du Petrole or 'IFP'), a public research center
focused on industrial R&D research in energy and transportation.
The visit's purposes were to assess IFP's strategic priorities,
obtain an understanding of its research strengths, and determine
opportunities for new collaborative partnerships. Technical
discussions centered on IFP's preparations for energy
transformation, and its role researching new energy systems, such as
biofuels and hydrogen, and CO2 capture and storage. IFP's biofuels
and carbon sequestration research which we summarize below is
impressive. U.S. agencies interested in collaboration in these
fields might wish to consider IFP a potential research partner. IFP
also seeks to increase doctoral and post-doctoral researchers to its
research centers. End summary.

The IFP Strategy

2. IFP's activities cover oil, gas, and substitutes including:
exploration, production, refining, petrochemicals, engines and
petroleum products use. IFP seeks to expand the boundaries for oil
and gas exploration and production and is inventing new technologies
to exploit untapped reserves. To strengthen know-how in clean
refining processes and petrochemicals, IFP is developing
technologies to enhance production of environmentally-friendly
fuels. IFP is also transforming biomass, gas, and coal into fuels
for tomorrow. It is also engaged in hydrogen research. As the bulk
of the CO2 emissions result from energy use, efforts to reduce them
must be combined with efforts to capture CO2 wherever possible. IFP
is France's leading researcher in CO2 capture, transport and
underground storage with more than 12,500 active patents, 301.5
million Euro budget including 241 million Euros for R&D and some
1735 employees.

New energy systems for tomorrow, and beyond

3. IFP leverages twenty years of expertise in both biofuels
production processes and the production of synfuels from natural
gas, coal, and biomass. Research includes enhancing fuels derived
from vegetable feedstock to improve existing processes for ethanol
fuel, ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE), methyl esters of vegetable
oil (VOME) and new processes to synthesize fuels from cellulosic
biomass to include wood, grain, forest residues, and organic wastes.

4. Ethanol derived fuels. IFP is researching and developing a
production process for acetone butanol and ethanol from
lignocellulosic biomass such as cereal straw, corn stalks, wood
residues and even organic waste, such as water treatment plant
sludge. IFP seeks to overcome remaining technological barriers to
enhance enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic matter and,
secondly, the ethanolic fermentation of pentoses produced by the
hemicellulose fraction. This research, drawing mainly on IFP's
expertise in molecular biology, microbiology and microbial genetics,
is being conducted in collaboration with INRA (Institut national de
recherche agronomique/National Agronomic Research Institute) and the
CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/National Center
for Scientific Research). IFP is developing a process for producing
ETBE, whose main advantage is a lower vapor pressure than ethanol in
order to bring specifications closer to gasoline. This research has
resulted in the construction of 3 TOTAL ETBE manufacturing units in
France (global production 200,000 t/year).
5. Biodiesel. Esterfip-H is a new biodiesel technology in the
production of VOMEs developed by IFP which built a plant in Sete
(Herault department). Esterfip-H represents a major biofuels
advancement, as it ensures the production of biodiesel meeting
European specification EN 14214, and at the same time produces
glycerin of high purity in the process. According to IFP
presenters, the glycerin by-product is key to overall production
economics. The use of biodiesel presents advantages, not only
environmental, but also technical. In fact, a study conducted by IFP
demonstrates that use of VOME in petroleum-based fuels leads to a
significant improvement of the diesel fuel lubricity in engines.
6. Synfuels: BTL or "Biomass to Liquid," biofuels are made by first
transforming biomass (grain and forest residues, organic wastes,
etc.) into gas by high-temperature gasification, then reducing the
gas into gas oil by the "Fischer-Tropsch" process. IFP research
efforts, notably in partnership with the CEA (Commissariat a
l'energie atomique/French Atomic Energy Commission), are designed to
improve gasification yields, gas purification and optimization of

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the integration of the biomass conversion process and liquid fuel
production processes. Also, biomass gasification could pave the way
for hydrogen and energy production, according to IFP researchers.
7. Hydrogen: For several years, IFP has been developing clean
hydrogen production processes to transform hydrocarbonated matter
into elemental hydrogen. The two principal sources under study are
hydrocarbons and biomass: the OPALE project, based on the
gasification by partial oxidation with oxygen from liquid
hydrocarbons and the BIOPAC project, that consists in producing
hydrogen by steam reforming from "green" ethanol to power a fuel
cell, where the ethanol used is obtained from beet or wheat
8. Ultimately, in order to produce hydrogen without releasing CO2,
IFP considers it would be necessary to centralize this production
into large units, and to capture the CO2 emitted and store it
underground. IFP is developing the HyGenSys process designed to
produce hydrogen and electricity from natural gas and simultaneously
capture CO2 at low costs. IFP is also involved in suggesting
solutions to the problem of hydrogen transportation. One of the
solutions may consist in using the network of existing gas
pipelines, mixing hydrogen with natural gas. These options are being
researched within the framework of a European project, named
"Naturalhy," in which IFP also participates.

CO2 capture, transport, and storage

9. IFP is engaged in researching all aspects of capturing CO2,
transporting it, and injecting it underground for storage. It is
also studying issues associated with long term monitoring of CO2
stored underground.

10. Capture. IFP is investigating the capture of CO2 in flue gases,
in particular the optimization of solvents and the way they are
used; IFP is researching new methods to implement oxycombustion, in
order to obtain flue gases in which CO2 is concentrated and easier
to capture. New options which are being considered involve the
direct transfer of oxygen from air by using solid phases undergoing
an oxidation-reduction cycle. Finally, IFP is committed to
searching for new energy production processes that produce synthesis
gas and hydrogen and incorporate the capture of CO2.

11. Transport. IFP is studying transport modes and developing
methods and tools needed to make this transport safe and reliable.
After the capture phase, the CO2 must be conveyed, sometimes over
long distances, to a place of storage, such as a saline aquifer. In
the current petroleum sector, CO2 is transported in gas pipelines.
However, in the supercritical state compression and injection
facilities would be required. IFP is developing an alternative
solution in which the CO2 is transported and injected underground in
the liquid state, at a temperature that remains close to the ambient
temperature. According to IFP, transporting and injecting CO2 in
liquid form could substantially reduce investment costs in contrast
to other methods of CO2 capture currently under research.

12. Storage. IFP is also developing modeling tools and laboratory
analysis methods to predict the flow of CO2 in the subsoil in the
vicinity of the injection well, where the gradients of CO2
concentration, pressure, and temperature are high. Three geological
storage modes are being considered: storage in depleted oil and gas
fields, in deep saline aquifers, and in un-minable coal seams. IFP's
work concerns the analysis, understanding, and modeling of
interactions between the injected CO2 and the rocks and fluids of
the subsoil. Post-injection geochemical and geophysical monitoring
methods are also under study in IFP, in particular seismic and
micro-seismic methods, which make it possible to monitor the
propagation and evolution of the stored gas and integrity of the
overburden of the storage facility.

What kind of collaborator is IFP?

13. IFP, through its own research or in partnership with
universities, research centers, and industries concerned, is a major
player in the field of new energy systems and CO2 capture,
transport, and storage. At the national level, IFP works alongside
other French research establishments on a number of projects. These
include ANR (Agence nationale de la recherche - National Research
Agency) and ADEME (Agence de l'environnement et de la maitrise de
l'energie - Agency for the Environment and Energy Management). IFP

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is also a leader in the European Union and is committed to advancing
European research projects, e.g. European CASTOR project(CO2 from
CApture to STORage) and European Platform for Zero Emission Power
Plants (ZEP). Internationally, IFP has taken part in the Weyburn
project, a Canadian CO2 storage project associated with an enhanced
oil recovery operation, the scientific accompaniment of which has
been coordinated by the International Energy Agency (IEA). IFP is
also a leader with China in the COACH project (Cooperation Action
With CO2 Capture and Storage China-EU).

14. IFP highlighted that it seeks greater climate change-related
research collaboration-not only between France and the U.S., but
also in EU-U.S. partnerships. Officials underscored that European
research funding leaves the door open to American partners. This may
prove to be good timing for enhanced EU/U.S. dialogue on energy,
sustainable development, and environment as France prepares to
assume the EU presidency with environmental issues high on the
agenda. At the technical international level, IFP collaborates
closely with the U.S., e.g. the DOE-led Carbon Sequestration
Leadership Forum (CSLF). IFP was the designated body to organize
the 2007 CSLF plenary meeting which took place in Paris.

15. IFP clarified its legal status to facilitate future
collaboration. IFP senior officials highlighted existing substantial
collaboration with the U.S. private sector at the industrial level,
and in education/training, particularly graduate training program
for engineers (500 students/year, half foreigners, in partnership
with the Colorado School of Mines and several U.S. universities).
Senior IFP officials consider the recent evolution of IFP's status
to that of a state-owned public scientific establishment under the
French EPIC classification (Etablissement Public a caractere
Industriel et Commercial/Public Establishment with an Industrial and
Commercial Purpose) puts IFP in a position to undertake additional
collaboration with U.S. scientific agencies.

16. COMMENT: ESTH officers had expected IFP to resemble the American
Petroleum Institute. It had not expected a body so committed to
research of new fuels and CO2 capture and storage. IFP's executive
director is especially keen to collaborate with U.S. scientific
agencies such as DOE on fuels for the future and carbon capture and
sequestration research. Embassy ESTH officers would be pleased to
introduce U.S. agencies to IFP. END COMMENT.


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