Towards Sustainable Fuels from Biomass Using Fast Pyrolysis and Electrocatalysis in Regional Depots

Wednesday, 4 October 2017: 15:40
Chesapeake 12 (Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center)
C. M. Saffron, S. Das, P. Fasahati, M. Garedew (Michigan State University), C. H. Lam (Yale University), and J. E. Jackson (Michigan State University)
Novel routes to renewable hydrocarbon fuels are needed to provide transportation energy for operating the U.S. automobile fleet and to reduce atmospheric carbon concentrations. Biomass-to-liquid technologies are necessary components of future bioenergy systems that are used instead of fossil systems to minimize climate change. Fast pyrolysis is a thermochemical technology that converts biomass into liquid fuel intermediates while producing biochar, a co-product that sequesters carbon when land applied. Though biochar is potentially of great benefit to the environment, the liquid intermediate made by pyrolysis, known as bio-oil, requires significant upgrading to meet the standards that are currently imposed on gasoline and diesel fuel. Following biomass deconstruction by fast pyrolysis at regional depots, electrocatalytic hydrogenation and deoxygenation (ECH) is proposed to partially upgrade bio-oil to create a stable intermediate with properties superior to raw bio-oil. Decentralized and distributed systems of this kind will allow for optimizing the balance of “economies of scale” and “economies of transportation,” while valorising agricultural commodities for rural prosperity. Subsequent hydroprocessing at centralized refineries, possibly using hydrogen from wind- or solar-driven electrolysis, creates the finished fuel. By reactively stabilizing bio-oil and increasing its energy content, ECH could be a foundational technology for this novel bioenergy system that is capable of significant decarbonization of the terrestrial atmosphere.