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Thermochemical Pilot and Users Facility

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View looking up through the center of a collection of circulation vessels and cabling.

The Recirculating Regenerating Reactor in the TCUF regenerates reforming catalyst and is similar to units used in the gasoline industry. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 25486.

NREL's state-of-the-art Thermochemical Pilot and Users Facility (TCUF) consists of several complementary unit operations that can be configured to accommodate the testing and development of reactors, filters, catalysts, and other bioenergy conversion unit operations. The TCUF offers partners the capability to test new processes and feedstocks in a timely and cost-effective manner and to quickly and safely obtain extensive performance data on their processes or equipment.

The Thermochemical Pilot and Users Facility contains the following equipment:

  • Thermochemical Process Development Unit
    The heart of the TCUF is the 0.5-metric-ton-per-day Thermochemical Process Development Unit (TCPDU), which can be operated in either a pyrolysis or gasification mode. The main unit operations in the TCPDU include 8-inch diameter fluidized bed reactor; 1.5-inch diameter by 100-ft-long tubular entrained flow reactor; cyclonic particulate separation; fluidized bed catalytic reformer; and wet scrubber system. A variety of particulate removal, secondary catalytic conversion, and condensation equipment is also available.

  • Recirculating Regenerating Reactor
    The Recirculating Regenerating Reactor (R3) can continuously regenerate reforming catalyst as it is exposed to dirty synthesis gas (syngas). The new R3 system is similar in design to a Fluid Catalytic Cracking unit, a standard unit operation widely used in the gasoline industry.

  • Catalytic Fuel Synthesis Reactors
    A full-stream, catalytic fuel synthesis system capable of converting the full syngas stream from the TCPDU to liquid fuels is being installed. Independent reactors are available for testing multiple synthesis catalysts or reactor conditions for comparative fuel synthesis studies.

  • Bench-Scale Biomass Conversion System
    This 2-inch-diameter fluidized bed reactor system can be used for small-scale studies of biomass and bio-oil gasification, pyrolysis, catalytic reforming of pyrolysis liquids or vapors, or raw syngas conditioning.

  • Fuel Synthesis Catalyst Test Facility
    This state-of-the-art reactor laboratory consists of three bench-scale reactors and a custom gas analysis system. The reactors are designed for isothermal testing of gas-to-liquids catalysts using synthesis gas. All reactors are fully integrated with the TCPDU so researchers can evaluate catalyst performance with real-world biomass-derived syngas.

  • Analytical Equipment
    The TCUF and its laboratories are unique in that they have the capability to analyze products online over a wide spectrum of chemical compositions. A collection of dedicated analytical instruments has been assembled and connected to the process with special sampling methods. The analytical equipment used throughout the TCUF includes:

    • Molecular beam mass spectrometers
    • Rapid cycle gas chromatographs
    • Non-dispersive infrared sensors
    • Thermal conductivity detectors
    • Paramagnetic O2 sensor
    • Residual gas analyzers.

    The TCUF's analytical capability can also be taken on the road to provide online sampling at a customer's site.

More Information

Learn more about the Thermochemical Users Facility and Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry.