New study highlights fast pyrolysis bio-oil yields of 17-27% from cellulosic feedstocks

April 26, 2015 |

In Washington state, a new study released in the journal Energy & Fuels is providing the first, fully integrated assessment of common feedstocks from the field to refinery-ready crude fuel, based on hydrotreatment or fast pyrolysis. The assessment capture valuable feedstock performance data (yields) during each step throughout the process, and examined six different pure lignocellulosic feedstocks (such as pine, switchgrass, corn stover or poplars) and two potential feedstock blends, resulting in detailed, side-by side comparisons of both quantity and quality.

To date, a number of studies have investigated the yields of bio-oil from fast pyrolysis, but have reported a wide range (36-62%) of liquid mass yields dependent upon the feedstock used. The yield of upgraded hydrocarbon fuels from these bio-oils is far less understood.  The wide range of reported yields coupled with unknown upgrading performance presents a serious risk to the emerging bioenergy industry in successfully designing and operating a fast pyrolysis and hydrotreatment refinery.

To complete the assessment, PNNL partnered with Idaho National Laboratory, which prepared and characterized the feedstocks, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory where fast pyrolysis was conducted, before final hydrotreating at PNNL. The multi-lab approach ensured that the “best of the best” was aligned for each step in the process.

The study athors noted that “A detailed understanding of conversion performance as a function of feedstock properties is critical to both the design and successful operation of a biorefinery.  In order to make an impactful contribution to fuel production a wide range of biomass species will need to be integrated into the supply train.  This study provides industry producers with the data needed to evaluate the potential of biomass as a commodity and optimize quality vs. quantity tradeoffs for each specific feedstock.”

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