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Thermochemical Conversion Projects

A photo of a small room containing a piece of blue metal equipment. Tubes run from the equipment up to the ceiling of the room and connect to pipes that run across the ceiling and down the walls. A man in a blue lab coat and hard hat is working on the pipes on the right wall of the room.

Synthesis gas formed during the gasification process must be compressed before it enters the catalytic fuel synthesis reactor.

NREL investigates thermochemical processes for converting biomass and its residues to fuels and intermediates using gasification and pyrolysis technologies. Gasification—heating biomass with about one-third of the oxygen necessary for complete combustion—produces a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, known as syngas. Pyrolysis—heating biomass in the absence of oxygen—produces a liquid pyrolysis oil. Both syngas and pyrolysis oil can be used to make fuels that are cleaner and more efficient than the solid biomass.

Among the thermochemical conversion RD&D projects at NREL are:

  • Gasification Process Modeling and Optimization
    NREL is using computational and experimental techniques to investigate chemical and physical processes that occur during biomass gasification. A deeper understanding of these processes will lead to the development of methods directly aimed at reducing the formation of unwanted byproducts from gasification. Optimized methods for the reduction of impurities will reduce the cost of syngas cleanup and conditioning.

  • Integrated Gasification and Fuel Synthesis
    The promising technologies and processes developed at the bench scale for biomass-derived syngas cleanup, conditioning, and conversion to fuels are being demonstrated at pilot scale in the Thermochemical Process Development Unit.

  • Core Pyrolysis
    NREL is developing a technically sound and cost-effective method for bio-oil deoxygenation, creating a bio-oil that can be upgraded to clean fuel.

Learn about thermochemical conversion capabilities.