RTI's recent findings in pilot-scale catalytic fast pyrolysis


Your everyday products, like plastics, gasoline, even antibiotics, or fragrances, are made from fossil fuels. What if we, instead, used biomass to make these products at comparable pricing? This is where RTI’s direct thermochemical liquefaction technology, via catalytic fast pyrolysis, comes into play.

Our article published in “FUEL” details RTI’s successful validation of “Pilot-scale catalytic fast pyrolysis of loblolly pine over γ-Al2O3 catalyst” based on the outcome of the γ-Al2O3 catalyst on a lab-scale (450 g/h) fluidized bed reactor. Direct thermochemical liquefaction technologies, such as catalytic fast pyrolysis, are yet to be economically competitive and successfully demonstrated at commercial-scale. The results from both units showed consistent biocrude yields and quality. Even though several technical challenges remain; the reproducibility of the small-scale pyrolysis yields at the 1 TPD-scale is a noteworthy achievement.

As stated by one of the Reviewers - Scale-up is of immense importance for the biofuels industry, as much is made of small-scale experiments with comparatively little literature offered on real pilot-scale operations or the conversion of laboratory process to operate at larger-scales.  Therefore, this type of contribution to the field is extremely important. 

Background of Thermochemical Direct Liquefaction Technologies

Over the past three decades, thermochemical direct liquefaction technology development has focused on converting non-food biomass into liquid transportation fuels that could compete with petroleum-derived fuels. In recent years, more emphasis is being placed on the development of conversion technologies targeting a wide range of bio-based products, in addition to liquid fuels to displace the whole barrel of crude oil.

Significant progress has been made on small-scale systems; but scaling up CFP has proved difficult and results from smaller units have not translated well to larger units. Advancing the technology toward commercialization will require more research and development at relevant larger commercial-scale process conditions.

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For more information, use the Elsevier Share Link URL to freely access the full article until January 13, 2018.