Design and Operation of a Multi-Bed Catalytic Micro-Reactor for the Study of Co-Processing of Bio-Oils with VGO

Research output: NRELPoster


An industry wide shift from fossil-based fuel to renewable fuel sources including biomass, municipal waste, and plastics will require new process monitoring methods to minimize transitional risks including off specification product formation and catalyst deactivation. This project aims to provide a machine learning based process monitoring tool composed of online, slipstream mass spectra for use in biomass refineries and co-processing in existing refineries allowing operators to monitor product qualities and adjust process conditions accordingly. In order to maximize the robustness of the tool, large volumes of data must be collected to fine tune model parameters which consists of both micro and pilot scale mass spectral data. Micro-scale data is collected with a multi-tube micro-reactor housing up to six catalysts in horizontal beds, coupled with a molecular beam mass spectrometer. A pyrolizer equipped with an auto-sampler streamlines the micro-scale data collection process. This type of pyrolizer/micro-reactor configuration does not exist on the market, and therefore had to be created for the purposes of this project. The design and commissioning of this reactor will be presented in detail. This reactor set-up is highly flexible and increases throughput of analysis. For catalyst testing, each bed can be individually selected simply by turning valves. For catalyst reduction and regeneration, simultaneous flow through all six beds is used. The reproducibility of the system was first assessed with whole biomass pyrolysis along with pyrolysis of calibration standards. Initial work on this system evaluated two FCC catalysts, equilibrium catalyst (E-cat), and a proprietary catalyst from Johnson Matthey specifically design for co-processing of bio-oil with vacuum gas oil (VGO). This work used model compounds and VGO which illuminated differences in products produced by the catalysts.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the tcbiomass Conference, 19-21 April 2022, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5100-82626


  • biomass
  • co-processing
  • high-throughput reactor
  • mass spectrometry
  • pyrolysis


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