Avello Bioenergy: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

May 10, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoAvello Bioenergy is commercializing proprietary technology in the evolving field of biomass fast pyrolysis. Avello brings a novel and innovative pyrolysis oil fractionation approach to the industry.  Based in central Iowa, Avello is positioned in the center of the fast growing Bioeconomy.

The Situation

Avello commenced devloping its demonstration facility in April 2014 and is on a 3-year runway. At it’s last DOE report, it was 8% completed on the $6.33 million project, in which it is partnered with ConTech (EPC), Borrengaard (Product R&D), Cargill (Biofuel oil demo), Virent (R&D), Iowa State (biomass and product R&D) and with APAI, Iowa DOT nd USDA as advisors.

Type of Technology:

The AvelloFRAC process converts biomass into several unique pyrolysis oil fractions and biochar using innovative pyrolysis technology. This versatile, flexible process includes proprietary technology licensed from Iowa State University to produce pyrolysis oil fractions with superior qualities when compared to conventional bio-oil.

Bioasphalt – Use of pyrolysis oil fractions in asphalt applications


AvelloFRAC is feedstock flexible with minimal preprocessing requirements. No chemical or biological pretreatment is required. Acceptable feedstocks include: agricultural residues (corn stover), mill residues, forestry residues (pine), and energy crops (switchgrass, hybrid poplar).


Bioasphalt – Renewable additive or replacement for petroleum based asphalt binders in paving and roofing material applications. Meets or exceeds ASTM and AASHTO specifications and performs as an additive, modifier, extender or full replacement of petroleum asphalt binders depending on application. Use of Bioasphalt can lower the production temperature of hot mix asphalt (HMA), which may decrease paving costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions because less energy input is required. Bioasphalt may also provide an anti-oxidant effect which could increase the service life of pavement. The grade range of asphalt may be extended with the addition of Bioasphalt.

Chemical Feedstocks – AvelloFRAC pyrolysis oils have improved properties for upgrading or use “as-is” in chemical and fuel applications. Potential markets include bulk and specialty chemicals, lignin based chemicals, phenolic resins, adhesives, and flavor & fragrance. The properties of AvelloFRAC fractions show potential for easier upgrading to drop-in biofuels and fuel additives.

Biofuel Oil – Heavy and light versions of Biofuel Oil are under development for use as petroleum replacements and blending stocks in existing applications. Target applications include stationary engines, commercial and industrial heat & power, and heavy marine engines. Biofuel Oil has lower water and acid content than conventional pyrolysis oil resulting in a less corrosive and higher energy density fuel.  Low sulfur content could result in lower SOx emissions compared to fuel oils and raw biomass.

Biochar – Biochar will be marketed as a soil amendment, fuel source for heat and power and as a potential carbon sequestration agent. Fuel uses of biochar include combustion in furnaces and boilers and co-firing with coal as a renewable fuel in existing power plants.

Top Past Milestones

  • Secured seed and grant funding exceeding $3 MM, including contract with the Iowa Power Fund for project to design and build Demonstration Plant
  • Secured licenses from Iowa State University
  • Demonstrated semi-continuous two-week ¼ TPD AvelloFRAC pilot plant operation, which produced Bioasphalt subsequently used in an asphalt paving demonstration (Des Moines, October 2010)
  • Avello, based at Iowa State, which counts a former energy executive and three ISU grad students among its key execs, has a new pyrolysis technology that improves, collects and separates bio-oil into various liquid fractions. A patent has been filed for the technology. Brown said the separation technology is a big step because bio-oil is such a complex mixture of chemicals and compounds that it’s very difficult to process. He said bio-oil is much easier to process if it’s separated into various fractions that are analogous to the “heavy ends” and “light ends” in petroleum refining.
  • The company’s focus? To use the separation technology to produce bio-oils that can be used to replace petroleum-based materials in asphalt, as well as for renewable chemicals and renewable industrial fuels. Avello has a pilot unit running a quarter-ton of biomass per day at present, and is raising funds for a 2.5 ton per day demonstration of its technology.
  • Iowa State has been working since 2007 under a $22.5 million seven-year grant from ConocoPhillips, supporting the university’s research into the development of fast pyrolysis oils.
  • In 2012, Avello successfully combusted Biofuel Oil in a residential heating oil burner at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). The 100% pyrolysis oil blend showed excellent flame stability, reduced CO2 and NOx emissions and comparable SOx emission with respect to Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD). Avello continues to work with BNL to test Biofuel Oil in various combustion applications.  Biofuel Oil has lower moisture content and increased heating value compared to conventional pyrolysis oil.
  • In November 2012, the company filed a patent app for “COMPOSITIONS, METHODS, APPARATUS, AND SYSTEMS FOR INCORPORATING BIO-DERIVED MATERIALS IN DRILLING AND HYDRAULIC FRACTURING – The present invention provides compositions, methods, apparatus, and systems to minimize environmental impact, water use, and overall cost of drilling and hydraulic fracturing for crude oil and natural gas.”

Major Milestone Goals

1. Startup and operation of demonstration plant, pre-commercial product testing and certification. Plant start-up and operation scheduled for April 2016.

2. Secure additional funding to complete design for first commercial plant

3. Start construction on first phase of commercial plant

Business Model:

Build, Own and Operate with strategic licensing and JV formation

Competitive Edge:

• Sustainable, proprietary and renewable asphalt binder for pavement construction and roofing materials

• Proprietary process technology isolates majority of water and acids to single pyrolysis oil fraction, which improves properties of other fractions for direct use and upgrading.

• Potential for profitability at relatively small scale (250 TPD and larger).

• Multiple pyrolysis oil fractions allows for custom blending and unique uses

• Groups of chemical compounds are concentrated into specific fractions, allowing for targeted and specialized end-use applications in chemicals and materials markets.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances

Avello Bioenergy executed a contract with the Iowa Power Fund for a $2.5 MM grant to design, build and operate a 2.5 TPD Demonstration Plant at the Iowa State University BioCentury Research Farm in Boone, IA. The 3-year project will design, build and operate a 2.5 dry ton/day Demonstration Plant to provide large amounts of product and, test these products in semi-commercial market applications. A strong coalition of industrial and academic partners have committed $2.8 MM of in-kind contributions for engineering support and use of equipment or facilities and market testing of Avello’s products. Avello Bioenergy is in the process of raising the capital match required to initiate this project. Continental Technologies and Emerson Process Management will assist Avello in engineering, construction and start-up of the plant.

The Demonstration plant produces Avello’s petroleum replacement products for pre-commercial testing. Bioasphalt will be used in paving demonstrations coordinated by government agencies and the Asphalt Paving Association of Iowa (APAI), and a leading building materials manufacturer will evaluate roofing shingle applications. Cargill plans to test Biofuel Oil™ for clean power generation at their facility in Eddyville, Iowa. Borregaard LignoTech will evaluate Avello pyrolysis oil fractions for use in renewable chemicals and specialty applications.


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