Design Study for Bio-Oil Production from Biomass Using a Dual Fluidized-Bed Reactor

Reinhard Seiser, Robert Cattolica, Matt Summers, Chang-hsien Liao

Research output: NRELPresentation


To evaluate the re-design and reconfiguration of a dual-fluidized bed (DFB) gasification system into a recirculating pyrolysis reactor, Computation Fluid Dynamic (CFD) simulations of the system were conducted. The Barracuda Virtual Reactor® computational particle fluid dynamic code was used to perform simulations of the pyrolysis process. Modeling of the chemical reaction kinetics for both gas phase and solid particle phase were included. The recirculating pyrolysis reactor shown in Fig. 1a is based on a bubbling-bed biomass pyrolyzer and a riser combustor to convert the remaining char. The operational differences in the re-configuration of the DFB gasification system into a recirculating pyrolysis system for the production of bio-oil are (1) replacement of a low-surface area inert bed material with a high-surface-area bed material that has acidic properties to provide catalytic activity for the production of bio-oil with reduced oxygen content, (2) lower temperature and residence time for bio-oil production from pyrolysis, (3) replacement of the fluidization gas in the bubbling bed pyrolyzer from steam to nitrogen, and (4) the reduction of pyrolyzer freeboard volume. The bed material used for catalytic pyrolysis is Sasol 300 (300-micron dia., bulk density 0.94 kg/l, and surface area 130 m2/g) and is a theta-alumina with mild acidity. This is in comparison with previous standard bed material Carbo HSP (430-micron dia., bulk density 2.01 kg/l, and surface area 0.03 m2/g) used for gasification. For bio-oil production, pyrolysis in the bubbling bed requires temperatures in the range of 550 C in comparison with gasification temperatures near 850 C. To attain this lower temperature requires management of the energy mass balances, with control of the bed material recirculation rate between bubbling bed pyrolyzer and riser combustor, the introduction of a nitrogen purge in the pyrolyzer, and adjusting the pressure balance between the two vessels. To extract bio-oil from the pyrolysis reactor with a snorkel, two different freeboard configurations were evaluated. In Fig. 1 b the existing high freeboard configuration is shown and in Fig. 1 c the reduced freeboard design is presented. The introduction of a nitrogen purge for the high free board configuration provided the highest bio-oil production from the CFD simulations. To decrease the bed-material circulation rate, primary and secondary air on the combustor side were reduced, and the pressure on the combustor was slightly increased. A portion of the biomass and bio-oil was observed to be transported to the combustor, leading to a smaller pyrolysis yield. The control of the pyrolyzer temperature is performed by controlling the circulation rate. Good fluidization of the bubbling bed and cascade PID control are required to keep the temperature from oscillating due to large time delay experienced when changing primary and secondary air. (a) (b) (c) Figure 1. (a) Dual Fluidized Bed pyrolysis system configuration, (b) mole fraction of nonpolar biooil in high freeboard configuration, and (c) mole fraction of nonpolar bio-oil in low freeboard configuration with nitrogen purge introduced in both configurations.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePresented at the 14th International Conference on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD 2020), 12-14 October 2020, Trondheim, Norway

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5100-78204


  • biomass
  • dual-fluidized bed
  • MP-PIC
  • pyrolysis


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