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Yield Revealed: Biomass Feedstock Options Evaluated in Field-to-Fuel Assessment

May 2015
Yield Revealed:  Biomass Feedstock Options Evaluated in Field-to-Fuel Assessment

To inform the design and operation of biorefineries, a first of a kind new study released in the journal Energy & Fuels includes detailed data from a comprehensive technoeconomic analysis, life-cycle analysis, and process development parameters for converting biomass feedstocks to upgraded biofuels. The study provides entirely new insights into the journey—and performance—of biomass from harvest to finished fuel blends.

Unlike previous studies that have assessed the performance of an individual step in the biorefinery process, such as hydrotreatment or fast pyrolysis, researchers have performed the first, fully integrated assessment of common feedstocks from the field to refinery-ready crude fuel.

The assessment, sponsored by the DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office, captured valuable feedstock performance data (yields) during each step throughout the process. It also assessed six different "pure" feedstocks (such as pine, switchgrass, corn stover or poplars) and two potential feedstock blends, resulting in detailed, side-by side comparisons of both quantity and quality.

The multi-lab study provides industry with a new level of performance data along each step of the process. It also yielded some interesting findings. For example, some feedstocks resulted in high yields during the fast pyrolysis to bio oil conversion, but didn't perform nearly as well during subsequent hydrotreating. Also, some feedstocks exhibited a very high hydrogen requirement during hydrotreating compared to other feedstocks, increasing the overall conversion cost of those materials. It's this type of step-by-step insight that industry needs to make informed, confident decisions.

To complete the assessment, PNNL partnered with Idaho National Laboratory, which prepared and characterized the feedstocks, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory where fast pyrolysis was conducted, before final hydrotreating at PNNL. The multi-lab approach ensured that the "best of the best" was aligned for each step in the process.

This research was covered in E&E News Publishing's Greenwire.

PNNL Research Team: Daniel Howe, Daniel Santosa, Igor Kutnyakov, and Craig Lukins

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