skip to main content


Title: Conceptual process design and techno-economic assessment of ex situ catalytic fast pyrolysis of biomass: A fixed bed reactor implementation scenario for future feasibility

Ex situ catalytic fast pyrolysis of biomass is a promising route for the production of fungible liquid biofuels. There is significant ongoing research on the design and development of catalysts for this process. However, there are a limited number of studies investigating process configurations and their effects on biorefinery economics. Herein we present a conceptual process design with techno-economic assessment; it includes the production of upgraded bio-oil via fixed bed ex situ catalytic fast pyrolysis followed by final hydroprocessing to hydrocarbon fuel blendstocks. This study builds upon previous work using fluidized bed systems, as detailed in a recent design report led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL/TP-5100-62455); overall yields are assumed to be similar, and are based on enabling future feasibility. Assuming similar yields provides a basis for easy comparison and for studying the impacts of areas of focus in this study, namely, fixed bed reactor configurations and their catalyst development requirements, and the impacts of an inline hot gas filter. A comparison with the fluidized bed system shows that there is potential for higher capital costs and lower catalyst costs in the fixed bed system, leading to comparable overall costs. The key catalyst requirement is to enable themore » effective transformation of highly oxygenated biomass into hydrocarbons products with properties suitable for blending into current fuels. Potential catalyst materials are discussed, along with their suitability for deoxygenation, hydrogenation and C–C coupling chemistry. This chemistry is necessary during pyrolysis vapor upgrading for improved bio-oil quality, which enables efficient downstream hydroprocessing; C–C coupling helps increase the proportion of diesel/jet fuel range product. One potential benefit of fixed bed upgrading over fluidized bed upgrading is catalyst flexibility, providing greater control over chemistry and product composition. Since this study is based on future projections, the impacts of uncertainties in the underlying assumptions are quantified via sensitivity analysis. As a result, this analysis indicates that catalyst researchers should prioritize by: carbon efficiency > catalyst cost > catalyst lifetime, after initially testing for basic operational feasibility.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [1] ;  [1]
  1. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
  2. DWH Process Consulting, Centennial, CO (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 1022-5528
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Topics in Catalysis
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 59; Journal Issue: 1; Related Information: Topics in Catalysis; Journal ID: ISSN 1022-5528
Research Org:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Bioenergy Technologies Office (EE-3B)
Country of Publication:
United States
09 BIOMASS FUELS; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; ex situ catalytic fast pyrolysis; biofuel; process design; techno-economic assessment; fixed bed reactor; vapor phase upgrading; Aspen Plus
OSTI Identifier: