Modeling of Biomass to Hydrogen via the Supercritical Water Pyrolysis Process

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


A heat transfer model has been developed to predict the temperature profile inside the University of Hawaii's Supercritical Water Reactor. A series of heat transfer tests were conducted on the University of Hawaii's apparatus to calibrate the model. Results of the model simulations are shown for several of the heat transfer tests. Tests with corn starch and wood pastes indicated that there aresubstantial differences between the thermal properties of the paste compared to pure water, particularly near the pseudo critical temperature. The assumption of constant thermal diffusivity in the temperature range of 250 to 450 deg. C gave a reasonable prediction of the reactor temperatures when paste is being fed. A literature review is presented for pyrolysis of biomass in water at elevatedtemperatures up to the supercritical range. Based on this review, a global reaction mechanism is proposed. Equilibrium calculations were performed on the test results from the University of Hawaii's Supercritical Water Reactor when corn starch and corn starch and wood pastes were being fed. The calculations indicate that the data from the reactor falls both below and above the equilibriumhydrogen concentrations depending on test conditions. The data also indicates that faster heating rates may be beneficial to the hydrogen yield. Equilibrium calculations were also performed to examine the impact of wood concentration on the gas mixtures produced. This calculation showed that increasing wood concentrations favors the formation of methane at the expense of hydrogen.
Original languageAmerican English
PagesVol. II: 655-691
Number of pages37
StatePublished - 1998
Event1998 U.S. DOE Hydrogen Program Review - Alexandria, Virginia
Duration: 28 Apr 199830 Apr 1998


Conference1998 U.S. DOE Hydrogen Program Review
CityAlexandria, Virginia

Bibliographical note

Work performed by Combustion Systems, Inc., Silver Spring, Maryland

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-570-25669


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