Method for Hot Real-Time Sampling of Pyrolysis Vapors

Research output: NRELPresentation


Biomass Pyrolysis has been an increasing topic of research, in particular as a replacement for crude oil. This process utilizes moderate temperatures to thermally deconstruct the biomass which is then condensed into a mixture of liquid oxygenates to be used as fuel precursors. Pyrolysis oils contain more than 400 compounds, up to 60 percent of which do not re-volatilize for subsequent chemical analysis. Vapor chemical composition is also complicated as additional condensation reactions occur during the condensation and collection of the product. Due to the complexity of the pyrolysis oil, and a desire to catalytically upgrade the vapor composition before condensation, online real-time analytical techniques such as Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry (MBMS) are of great use. However, in order to properly sample hot pyrolysis vapors, many challenges must be overcome. Sampling must occur within a narrow range of temperatures to reduce product composition changes from overheating or partial condensation or plugging of lines from condensed products. Residence times must be kept at a minimum to reduce further reaction chemistries. Pyrolysis vapors also form aerosols that are carried far downstream and can pass through filters resulting in build-up in downstream locations. The co-produced bio-char and ash from the pyrolysis process can lead to plugging of the sample lines, and must be filtered out at temperature, even with the use of cyclonic separators. A practical approach for considerations and sampling system design, as well as lessons learned are integrated into the hot analytical sampling system of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) Thermochemical Process Development Unit (TCPDU) to provide industrially relevant demonstrations of thermochemical transformations of biomass feedstocks at the pilot scale.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePresented at the Emerging Energy Technologies Summit and Exhibition, 5-7 December 2016, Melbourne, Australia

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5100-70210


  • hot sampling
  • MBMS
  • pilot plant
  • pyrolysis
  • TCUF
  • thermochemical


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