PhD scholarship in catalytic stabilization and upgrading of biomass pyrolysis oil to fuels for heavy transport and aviation

Thursday 21 Apr 22

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We offer you an exciting opportunity to join DTU Chemical Engineering and partners in the HyProFuel project recently funded by Innovation Fund Denmark with the aim to develop and study catalytic processes to stabilize and subsequently convert biomass pyrolysis oil to a high quality liquid fuel for heavy transport and aviation by hydrotreating. You will be enrolled at DTU Chemical Engineering within the CHEC research center in a dynamic research environment. The project involves collaboration with Aarhus University, Copenhagen University and several industrial companies, including Alfa Laval, Equinor, Kalundborg Refinery and foremost Haldor Topsøe and will provide research with an international and practical impact.

Responsibilities and qualifications
Fast pyrolysis is a fairly simple and efficient way to convert solid biomass such as wood and agricultural waste to a liquid fuel in high yield. The liquid fuel however has adverse properties such as low heating value, low pH/high acidity and poor storage stability due to the high oxygen content. To obtain a high quality liquid fuel that can be used for heavy transport and aviation the oxygen must be removed by hydrotreating. A main challenge in standard hydrotreating of the pyrolysis oil is the poor thermal stability of the oil that leads to fast coking/deactivation of catalysts and plugging of the reactor. The aim of the PhD project is to develop a two-stage catalytic process that allows for continuous and un-interrupted production of oxygen-free high quality liquid hydrocarbon fuel. The intended process involves a low temperature catalytic step where the pyrolysis oil is initially stabilized by converting reactive species causing the poor stability to more stable species, followed by ordinary hydrotreating of the oil to obtain a high quality fuel.

The PhD study will be involved in the following tasks:

  • Perform a literature study of biomass pyrolysis oil composition, catalytic pyrolysis oil stabilization and hydrotreating.
  • Perform experiments to screne catalysts in a high pressure batch autoclave reactor on conversion of model pyrolysis oils as well as real pyrolysis oil to identify 1) the most reactive species in the pyrolysis oil and 2) the most promising catalysts for stabilizing the oil.
  • Take part in setting up a high pressure two-stage trickle bed reactor setup for integrated pyrolysis oil stabilization and hydrotreating.
  • Perform experiments using the trickle bed reactor using both model pyrolysis oils and real pyrolysis oils with the aim to identify reaction conditions and catalysts that allow continuous operation.
  • Analyze, in collaboration with the project partners, the composition of the stabilized and fully upgraded pyrolysis oil in comparison with the untreated pyrolysis oil.
  • Interact with the other partners of the project to reach overall project goals.

Candidates should have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) within chemical engineering, chemistry or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree. Knowledge/experiences in catalyst synthesis, testing and characterization will be an advantage.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see DTU's rules for the PhD education.

The assessment of the applicants will be made by professor Anker Degn Jensen and associate professor Martin Høj.

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from professor Anker Degn Jensen tel.: +45 4525 2841, e-mail

You can read more about the department at

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark. Furthermore, you have the option of joining our monthly free seminar “PhD relocation to Denmark and startup “Zoom” seminar” for all questions regarding the practical matters of moving to Denmark and working as a PhD at DTU.

Application procedure
Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 20 May 2022 (Danish time).

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma (in English) including official description of grading scale

Candidates may apply prior to ob­tai­ning their master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

Sustainable processes and products
At DTU Chemical Engineering we work systematically on making processes and products more sustainable. The petrochemical industry and the consumers of their products are major emitters of CO2 and this project will provide a process to convert agricultural waste to a sustainable liquid hydrocarbon fuel that can be used in hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy transport and aviation.

Technology for people
DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear vision to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That vision lives on today. DTU has 13,400 students and 5,800 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. DTU has campuses in all parts of Denmark and in Greenland, and we collaborate with the best universities around the world.