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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Distributed on-Farm Bioenergy, Biofuels & Biochemicals (Farmbio3) Dev. & Production Via Integrated Catalytic Thermolysis (Umaine)cfda 10.312

Location: Sustainable Biofuels and Co-Products

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective of FarmBio3 is twofold: (i) to leverage the existing synergies among partners to further research and optimize pyrolysis pathways to commodity fuels and chemicals and improve the TRL 4 status already achieved at ARS and (ii) increase to on-farm scale that will enable the current state of technology to, TRL 6, commercial status.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Will focus on three feedstocks that are important to U.S. agriculture including switchgrass, horse manure and woody biomass. The primary conversion platform will be catalytic and non-catalytic fast pyrolysis for production of stable fuel intermediates. Because barriers to utilization of such intermediates are high we will develop more robust multi-functional heterogeneous catalysts to balance deoxygenation pathways to minimize oxygenate production while increasing carbon efficiency for the selected feedstock pool. Bifunctional catalysts will be developed to upgrade and optimize carbon distribution in the condensed phase pyrolysate to achieve C6-C14 hydrocarbons and target entry to gasoline, diesel and jet range fuels markets. We will develop and optimize homogeneous catalysts to break C-O bonds of the lignin fraction of lignocellulosic pyrolysate to produce specialty chemicals. Pyrolysis process improvements will be integrated at on- the-farm scale using an existing patent-pending dual fluidized bed, combustion-reduction integrated pyrolysis, unit (CRIPS) designed to mimic the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) process. Using real process data from this scale up and optimized upgrading, an exergetic LCA will be performed to describe not only economics and greenhouse gas emissions but also resource depletion and loss of quality for distributed on-farm thermolysis; this will be the first complete economic, environmental, and social sustainability analysis for on-farm pyrolysis.


3.Progress Report:

This is a sub-award for a NIFA funded Biomass Research & Development Initiative project (FarmBio3) for which ARS is the principal investigator. With regard to feedstock development, the collaborator has developed machine-level productivity functions for the common equipment in this region. The functions predict green tons of wood produced per productive machine hour based on tree size for the harvesting equipment and log size and distance to roadside for the transportation equipment. This work was directly funded as the cost share from the UMaine CFRU. U.Maine have also established good collaboration with other UMaine researchers involved in related life cycle analysis studies. For non-catalytic fast pyrolysis, Professor Pendse has been reviewing the reactor design for the two ton per day pyrolysis demonstration unit currently under construction at ARS and expected material flows to assess the Maine beta test site requirements, including permitting issues. At this stage, no outstanding barriers have been identified for possible operations at the Old Town site (a mill near U. Maine’s campus which already works with the collaborator on various research projects). With regards to deoxygenation of pyrolysis oil, USDA-ARS collaborators at the University of Maine received 6 catalysts which were synthesized and characterized at the University of South Carolina, another FarmBio3 partner. The Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) researchers at U.Maine have conducted preliminary experiments to develop methods for testing deoxygenation catalysts in a batch reactor. The experiments use a compound that serves to model bio-oil behavior and water as a solvent. Control experiments indicate that only the model compound and water were observed in the products. A second experiment has been conducted using a commercial ruthenium catalyst, and it appears visually, that the conversion of model compound was near 100. Testing of the catalysts that were synthesized at the University of South Carolina is underway.


Last Modified: 4/24/2014
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