The Global Climate Platform

CLIMATE & ENERGY TECHNOLOGY

Thursday, 09, May, 2024

Overview

Pyrolysis is a technology that converts biomass into an intermediate liquid product, known as bio-oil, which can be further refined into drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels, fuel additives, and petrochemical replacements. Involving heating biomass at temperatures above 500°C in the absence of oxygen, causing it to thermally decompose into combustible gases, bio-char (solid residue), and syngas. The proportions of these products depend on factors like feedstock composition and processes parameters, with optimized conditions yielding bio-oil (60-70% weight), bio-char (15-25% weight), and syngas (10-15% weight). Fast pyrolysis conditions at high heating rates favor bio-oil production, while slow pyrolysis primarily yields bio-char. Bio-oil has a fuel value comparable to petroleum-based fuels but requires further research for quality improvement and refining. It can be used as boiler fuel or upgraded to renewable transportation fuels. Bio-char, on the other hand, serves as an excellent soil amendment, enhancing soil quality, water retention, nutrient retention, and carbon sequestration. The distributed processing model can involve small-scale pyrolyzers producing bio-oil on-site, which is then transported to centralized locations for refining. This model allows for efficient biomass conversion and utilization while mitigating the challenges associated with crop residue removal.

Technologies 

  • Fast Pyrolysis

Fast pyrolysis is a rapid heating process that converts biomass into valuable products in the absence of oxygen. It operates at high temperatures ranging from 300 to 700°C, with a fast heating rate of 10 to 200°C/s.

Ensyn’s patented RTP® technology is a thermal conversion process that efficiently converts cellulosic biomass, primarily wood-derived feedstocks, into valuable biocrude. The biocrude can be used directly as renewable fuel oil, as a refinery feedstock for producing renewable gasoline and diesel, or as a chemical feedstock for food flavorings and fragrances. The RTP process involves rapid contact between hot flowing sand and biomass, fragmenting the feedstock into vapors, gases, and char, with the vapors being quenched to recover biocrude. The process is cost-effective, does not require complex catalyst systems or high pressure, and bears similarities to Fluid Catalytic Cracking used in refineries.

  • Slow Pyrolysis

Slow pyrolysis is a process of heating organic material in the absence of oxygen, resulting in the partial evaporation of volatiles and the production of charcoal. It is also known as carbonization, with an emphasis on the solid charcoal as the main product. The process involves three phases: drying, thermal decomposition, and cooling. Slow pyrolysis is distinct from fast pyrolysis, which focuses on the production of liquid products. Additionally, torrefaction is a related process to carbonization, involving heating biomass to a lower temperature to retain more volatiles within the resulting charcoal.

Pyrocal’s CCT (Continuous Carbonization Technology) system utilizes a modified updraft gasifier called the hearth, which features proprietary high-temperature components and controls. The feedstock is continuously fed into the hearth where it undergoes rapid heating, drying, and pyrolysis. Partial combustion of volatile components in the hearth provides the necessary heat for the process, while the off-gases are fully oxidized in the thermal oxidizer. The system is designed for flexibility, optimized biochar quality, efficient emissions control, and fully autothermal operation. It also offers rapid start-up and operates under negative pressure to eliminate flammable gas leaks.

  • Vacuum Pyrolysis

Vacuum pyrolysis involves pyrolyzing the biomass or waste under reduced pressure or vacuum conditions. Lowering the pressure lowers the boiling point of the volatile components, facilitating their separation. Vacuum pyrolysis can be employed for the production of bio-oil and biochar.

Mura Technology’s HydroPRS™ process is designed to complement existing mechanical recycling processes and infrastructure by recycling plastic waste that cannot be processed through traditional means. It can handle a wide range of plastic types, including contaminated, post-consumer flexible and rigid materials. The process diverts waste plastics from landfill, incineration, or environmental leakage, reducing the need to export plastic waste. HydroPRS™ produces valuable hydrocarbon products tailored to market requirements, such as recycled naphtha, distillate gas oil, heavy gas oil, and high-boiling hydrocarbon products, which can be used as feedstocks in the production of new plastics, chemicals, waxes, oils, and sustainable road building materials.

  • Catalytic Pyrolysis

Catalytic pyrolysis involves the use of catalysts to enhance the pyrolysis process. The catalysts help to improve product selectivity and yield. This technology aims to increase the production of desired products, such as high-quality bio-oil or specific chemicals.

Anellotech has developed the Bio-TCat™ technology, a thermal catalytic biomass conversion process that produces renewable chemicals and fuels from non-food biomass. The process, covered by issued patents and licensed from the University of Massachusetts, utilizes a one-reactor catalytic system to convert biomass into a mixture of bio-based benzene, toluene, and xylene (AnelloMate™ BTX), which are chemically identical to petroleum-derived counterparts. Additionally, the technology produces a heavier aromatics product called AnelloMate Distillate, which can be further processed into high-quality biofuels for jet or diesel transportation fuel. Anellotech’s Bio-TCat process offers cost-competitiveness, process efficiency, and avoids the need for highly-oxygenated bio-oil intermediates, making it a promising alternative to petro-based products.

You can follow the latest updates on our Pyrolysis page.

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