Battelle produces bio-oil from woodchips

Science and technology company Battelle has developed a mobile device that converts biomass materials, such as woodchips and agricultural waste, into bio-oil using catalytic pyrolysis.

This intermediate bio-oil can be upgraded via hydrotreatment into a gas/diesel blend or jet fuel. Testing of the bio-based fuel alternative produced by Battelle suggests it can be blended with existing petrol and can help fuel producers meet their renewable fuel requirements.

An alternative use of this bio-oil is its conversion to a bio-polyol that can be substituted in chemical manufacturing for polyols derived from petroleum.

Battelle is currently converting 1 tonne of pine chips, shavings and sawdust into around 130 gallons of wet bio-oil per day at its unit in Ohio, US and evaluations of this pilot-scale system are now underway. The system is the culmination of Battelle's second-stage development of the mobile pyrolysis technology.

In the first stage, which took place over the past four years, Battelle created a bench-scale machine that converted 50lbs a day of woody waste, demonstrating the concept. The next step will be to work with a strategic partner/investor to produce a tenth-scale demonstration unit.

Pine waste is mainly being used in the transportable pyrolysis unit, although the machine can be modified to use other types of unwanted agricultural field residue known as stranded biomass. This includes corn stover, switchgrass and miscanthus.

Additionally, all of the waste materials produced by the unit's process—liquid, solid and gas—have been taken into account. The liquid waste stream is water that can be safely recycled or disposed of, the solid char contains inorganics that can be used in fertilizers and the venting gas is monitored for safety.

'We've got it producing oil and have proven viable applications for it,' says Kathya Mahadevan, business line manager in Battelle's Energy and Environment at business. 'As we increase scale, we will be able to further refine efficiencies such as thermal consumption and yield.'

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