Feedstock and Catalyst Impact on Bio-Oil Production and FCC Co-Processing to Fuels

Kimberly Magrini, Jessica Olstad, Brady Peterson, Rebecca Jackson, Yves Parent, Earl Christensen, Kristiina Iisa, Calvin Mukarakate

Research output: NRELPresentation


NREL’s thermochemical biomass conversion research is focused on ex-situ upgrading of biomass fast-pyrolysis (FP) vapors as an efficient and economical route to completely biogenic pyrolysis-based fuel precursors, potential fuels, and value-added chemicals depending on catalyst choice and process conditions. In this approach, biomass vapors are generated via fast pyrolysis with destabilizing vapor components (char, inorganics, tar aerosols) removed by hot gas filtration to produce conditioned vapors more responsive to catalytic upgrading. A Davison Circulating Riser (DCR), a petroleum industry standard for fluidized catalytic cracking (FCC) catalyst evaluation, was coupled with a custom pyrolyzer system designed to produce consistent composition pyrolysis vapors as feed to the DCR. The coupled system is shown below (Figure 1). Pyrolysis vapors, derived from pure hardwood and softwood, were upgraded using commercially available and laboratory modified zeolite-based catalysts. Upgraded oils were analyzed via 31P and 13C NMR spectroscopy, GCxGC-TOF/MS, carbonyl and ultimate analysis (CHNO), and micro distillation to assess both oil chemistry and distillation behavior as they relate to catalyst and feedstock type for producing fungible hydrocarbon product liquids. Measured process parameters identified from technoeconomic process analysis included achieving oil oxygenate contents of 20% or less, carbon-conversion efficiencies of 30% or more, and catalyst coking rates of 10% or less. A proprietary modified zeolite catalyst from Johnson Matthey produced oils that met these requirements. Using the DCR equipped with a proprietary nozzle system, a second approach focused on reducing the carbon intensity of petroleum-derived hydrocarbon fuels by FCC co-processing these CFP oils with petroleum vacuum gas oil (VGO) to produce biogenic carbon containing fuels. The vapor-phase upgrading results demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of producing refinery-compatible hydrocarbon fuel intermediates entirely from biomass-derived fast-pyrolysis vapors using an industry-accepted DCR system for catalytic upgrading. The co-processing results demonstrated the feasibility of using CFP oils with VGO feeds in FCC refinery operations to produce biogenic carbon containing fuels.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the 29th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition, 26-29 April 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5100-79136


  • bio-oil
  • biofuel
  • biomass vapors
  • catalytic upgrading
  • fast pyrolysis
  • hot gas filtration


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