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NREL's Thermochemical Conversion Facility Video Text Version

Below is the text version for the Thermochemical Conversion Facility video.

Welcome to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Here,

NREL researchers develop technologies for the conversion of biomass to fuels and bio-based chemicals and materials. Our expertise covers thermochemical, biochemical, and algae-based conversion platforms with capabilities ranging from high throughput microscale reactors to industrially relevant pilot plants.

In this short video, we would like to share with you some of our thermochemical conversion capabilities here at NREL.

In our micro-reactor lab we perform biomass gasification or pyrolysis experiments using very small feedstock samples—just a few grams—and very small amounts of catalyst. This capability is ideal for screening the impact of catalyst composition and process conditions on yields and product composition. The micro-reactors typically use a molecular beam mass spectrometer for online product speciation in real time so we can effectively monitor the composition of products and changes in catalyst performance due to deactivation.

Some reactors feature high-throughput capability for rapid screening of catalyst activity. These automated systems are capable of processing up to 50 samples with different biomass feedstocks and varying catalyst compositions to rapidly screen initial activity under either gasification or pyrolysis conditions.

NREL’s Biomass Catalyst Characterization Laboratory is a comprehensive materials characterization and performance testing lab where researchers investigate the relationships between catalyst structure, properties, and activity for gasification, pyrolysis, and clean-up and conversion of biomass-derived intermediates.

Fully automated, real-time screening of catalyst performance, lifetime, and regenerability can also be carried out using bench-scale continuous flow reaction systems. Extensive analytical capabilities are available for liquid and gaseous products, including two-dimensional gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, NMR, and other relevant instrumentation.

NREL’s R&D efforts also include work on bio-based chemicals and materials. Researchers are developing and testing thermochemical techniques to manufacture important platform chemicals that can be used to create bio-based plastics as well as other products that can be used as fuels and replacements for petrochemicals.

From the microscale, our research capabilities transition to bench-scale systems that process from 500 to 5,000 grams per hour of biomass. Our 500-gram-per-hour bench-scale unit can be used for research on either gasification or pyrolysis. In this lab, a fluid bed vapor phase catalytic upgrading reactor allows catalyst to be continually added and withdrawn so we can study catalyst activity and product composition at steady-state.

We use a tandem fast pyrolysis reactor and Davison recirculating reactor system to study ex-situ catalytic fast pyrolysis in a recirculating riser configuration. This unique system has a biomass feedrate of up to 5 kilograms per hour, and features continuous regeneration and recirculation of the catalyst. Here we can study the impact of catalyst formulation and processing conditions on bio-oil composition in a real-world industrial environment.

NREL's state-of-the-art pilot-scale Thermochemical User Facility, also known as the TCUF, consists of several complementary unit operations that can be configured for testing and development of reactors, filters, catalysts, and other bioenergy conversion unit operations.

At the TCUF, industrial partners can test new processes and feedstocks and quickly and safely obtain extensive performance data on their processes or equipment. The heart of the TCUF is the half ton-per-day Thermochemical Process Development Unit, or TCPDU, which can be operated in either a pyrolysis or gasification mode with both fluid-bed and entrained-flow reactors.

The TCUF also features a full-size recirculating regenerating reactor which is similar in design to a Fluid Catalytic Cracking unit, a standard operation widely used in the petroleum refining industry. The TCUF features extensive instrumentation for online analysis of gaseous and vapor products including molecular beam mass spectrometers, rapid cycle gas chromatographs, and a variety of other instrumentation to monitor composition of intermediates and products in real time.

The Fuels Synthesis Catalyst Test Facility includes bench-scale reactors and a sophisticated online custom gas analysis system. The reactors are designed for isothermal testing of gas-to-liquid catalysts using either bottled synthesis gas or authentic syngas produced in the TCPDU. All reactors are fully automated and are used to carry out extended life testing of syngas conversion catalysts for up to several thousand hours.

NREL researchers are developing computational models to study the impact of catalyst formulation and reactor configuration on biomass conversion. For example, computational fluid dynamics models are being developed to predict the impact of flow dynamics on products formed during pyrolysis.

Our technical work is accompanied by rigorous techno-economic analysis and life-cycle assessments, which are important for determining the sustainability and environmental impacts of biomass-based processes.

NREL's analysis tools can be applied from a global to an individual project scale and are used to examine the impacts of various segments of the biomass conversion life cycle, such as different feedstocks, new process technologies, or alternative end-use designs.

These analyses can be useful in determining which emerging technologies have the highest potential for near-, mid-, and long-term success and are also useful in directing research

toward the greatest potential cost reductions.

Thanks for allowing us to share some of our capabilities with you today. If you have questions or would like more information, please feel free to visit our website where you will find additional details on our facilities, capabilities, contact information, and how to work with us.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!