Design and operation of a pilot-scale catalytic biomass pyrolysis unit
RTI International is developing an advanced biofuels technology that integrates a catalytic biomass pyrolysis step and a hydroprocessing step to produce infrastructure-compatible biofuels. At the current stage of development, the catalytic biomass pyrolysis process is being scaled-up in a 1 tonne per day (1 TPD) pilot plant based on a single-loop transport reactor design with continuous catalyst circulation and regeneration. The chemistry of biomass pyrolysis is manipulated by the catalyst and by controlling the pyrolysis temperature, vapor residence time, and biomass-to-catalyst ratio. The pilot unit has been successfully operated with a novel catalyst that produces a bio-crude intermediate with 24 wt% oxygen. Product yields and composition in the pilot plant are consistent with results obtained in a laboratory-scale 2.54 cm diameter bubbling fluidized bed reactor. The overall mass balance was 93%, while the carbon closure was 83%.