Ex Situ Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Hydrocarbon Fuels: 2020 State of Technology

Abhijit Dutta, Calvin Mukarakate, Kristiina Iisa, Huamin Wang, Michael Talmadge, Daniel Santosa, Kylee Harris, Frederick Baddour, Damon Hartley, Hao Cai, Longwen Ou, Joshua Schaidle, Michael Griffin

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Biomass catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) research was funded by the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to enable technical breakthroughs to help reduce the cost of conversion of biomass to liquid hydrocarbon fuels. The key goals were to achieve a mature plant modeled Minimum Fuel Selling Price of $3/GGE, with greater than 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction over petroleum derived gasoline by 2022. Experimental results at NREL and PNNL, along with lifecycle analysis by ANL show that we achieved these goals based on performance at the bench scale. A Pt/TiO2 catalyst was used in a fixed bed reactor for upgrading pyrolysis vapors from an upstream fast pyrolysis reactor (ex-situ configuration) to produce CFP oil with 16.5% oxygen content. Subsequent co-hydrotreating of 10 vol% of CFP oil with 90 vol% straight run diesel (SRD) at the bench scale yielded greater than 95% carbon efficiency for the CFP oil portion of the feed. Light oxygenated coproducts were recovered from the off gases from the CFP process via adsorption and subsequent desorption. Aspen Plus modeling of purification of the desorbed stream using the UNIFAC property method showed that acetone and methyl-ethyl-ketone can be purified to chemicals grade and sold as coproducts to benefit the economics and reduce GHG emissions attributed to the fuel product. Some of the key risks and uncertainties associated with this process, and potential future work are mentioned in this report.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages39
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5100-80291


  • 2-butanone
  • acetone
  • catalytic fast pyrolysis
  • co-hydrotreating
  • co-processing
  • ex-situ
  • fast pyrolysis
  • hydrocracking
  • hydrotreating
  • light oxygenates
  • methyl-ethyl-ketone


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