Integrated Computational Tools to Optimize and De-Risk Feedstock Handling & High-Pressure Reactor Feedings Systems: Application to Red Rock Biofuels’ Biorefinery

Jonathan Stickel, Peter Ciesielski

Research output: NRELPresentation


Biomass feedstocks exhibit inherent heterogeneity and vastly different materials properties from common granular feedstocks for which many solids handling unit operations were designed. These features have proven a significant impediment to the implementation of robust, continual biomass feeding systems for second-generation biorefineries. In order to address these challenges, we are developing integrated, experimentally validated simulations for several common feed handling and reactor feeding systems. We are building upon previous investments of the DOE that developed state-of-the-art modeling and simulation tools under the Consortium for Computational Physics and Chemistry (CCPC), the Feedstock Conversion Interface Consortium (FCIC), and other BETO-funded projects. We are leveraging and extending these tools to model the solids handling processes that constitute the front end of the Red Rock Biofuels (RRB) gasification and Fischer-Tropsch (FT) conversion process. This key partnership facilitates experimental validation of the simulations as well as provides immediate impact whereby the resultant models are being used to optimize and de-risk commercial-scale deployment of the RBB process. Specifically, we are developing simulations for the feed hoppers, compression screw-feeder, and conveyor/pyrolyzer units employed in the RRB process. The parameterization of these models for feedstock-specific scenarios have been informed by multimodal characterization of the structure, physical properties, and flow behavior of various feedstocks. This validated simulation toolkit can be generalized to aid in optimizing and de-risking other biomass conversion processes that use these common solids handling/reactor feeding units. In addition, we will provide correlations that can be used to adjust optimal operating conditions based on feedstock parameters. This project is making substantial progress towards understanding and overcoming the barriers associated with handling and feeding biomass, which will facilitate and de-risk commercial-scale deployment of second-generation biorefineries.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages27
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) 2021 Project Peer Review, 8-12, 15-16, and 22-26 March 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2800-79308


  • biomass conversion
  • computational fluid dynamics
  • discrete element method
  • multiphysics modeling
  • pyrolysis


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