Improving Catalyst Efficiency in Bio-Based Hydrocarbon Fuels

Research output: NRELFact Sheet


This article investigates upgrading biomass pyrolysis vapors to form hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals using catalysts with different concentrations of acid sites. It shows that greater separation of acid sites makes catalysts more efficient at producing hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals. The conversion of biomass into liquid transportation fuels has attracted significant attention because of depleting fossil fuel reserves and environmental concerns resulting from the use of fossil fuels. Biomass is a renewable resource, which is abundant worldwide and can potentially be exploited to produce transportation fuels that are less damaging to the environment. This renewable resource consists of cellulose (40-50 percent), hemicellulose (25-35 percent), and lignin (16-33 percent) biopolymers in addition to smaller quantities of inorganic materials such as silica and alkali and alkaline earth metals (calcium and potassium). Fast pyrolysis is an attractive thermochemical technology for converting biomass into precursors for hydrocarbon fuels because it produces up to 75 wt bio-oil,1 which can be upgraded to feedstocks and/or blendstocks for further refining to finished fuels. Bio-oil that has not been upgraded has limited applications because of the presence of oxygen-containing functional groups, derived from cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, which gives rise to high acidity, high viscosity, low heating value, immiscibility with hydrocarbons and aging during storage. Ex situ catalytic vapor phase upgrading is a promising approach for improving the properties of bio-oil. The goal of this process is to reject oxygen and produce a bio-oil with improved properties for subsequent downstream conversion to hydrocarbons.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/FS-5100-64111


  • bio-based
  • biomass
  • catalysts
  • catalytic vapor
  • hydrocarbon fuels
  • pyrolysis vapors


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