This post originally appeared on Tecnon OrbiChem's blog.
Pyrolysis is the thermal degradation/decomposition process that occurs in the absence of oxygen, which results in the production of pyrolytic liquid (pyrolysis oil), biochar and gas. Pyrolysis oil is the main product and can be utilised in different ways. It can be gasified to syngas and further converted to various chemicals and fuels; it can alternatively be co-fed into petroleum oil refineries, and the following hydrotreating or cracking, will result in the production of biofuels, chemical feedstock (e.g., naphtha) and chemical building blocks. Production of food flavouring (liquid smoke) is a commercialised product from pyrolysis. Pyrolysis oil can also be fed into a combined heat and power plant to produce heat and electricity. The co-products bio-char and gas are typically combusted to provide the process heat requirements. Biochar can also be used for soil amendment.
While pyrolysis has already been applied in a variety of industrial applications such as in cogeneration of heat and electricity, pyrolysis for conversion of wood chips to fuels is still considered to be in the early-stage commercial or pioneer facility stage of maturity. In Europe, fast pyrolysis plants identified include an integrated facility in Joeensuu, Finland owned by Savon Voima, a Finnish energy company; the Empyro fast pyrolysis plant in Hengelo, the Netherlands, owned by Twence, a Dutch biomass and waste recycling company; Green Fuel Nordic Oy’s plant in Lieksa, Finland; and the incoming Pyrocell’s plant in Gävle, Sweden, which started up last month.
Pyrocell, which is jointly owned by sawdust supplier Setra and energy firm Preem, started up the Gävle plant which will produce around
25 ktpa of non-fossil pyrolysis oil, Sweden’s first pyrolysis oil plant for biofuel. The facility is located next to the Setra Kastet sawmill. The
pyrolysis oil is then refined into renewable diesel and petrol at Preem’s refinery in Lysekil. Pyrocell was created in August 2018 based on
the concept of producing bio-oil from sawdust. Sweden reportedly sells a total of 1.9 million litres of biofuel in 2018 but only 15% of these
were domestically produced as the rest were imported from other countries. Biomass-based pyrolysis oil can qualify as an Annex IX Part A
feedstock under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). Preem also announced last month that it has completed a commercial refinery trial with Honeywell for the co-processing of biomass-based pyrolysis oil in a fluidised catalytic cracking (FCC) unit. Using UOP’s proprietary bio-liquid feed system with Optimix GF Feed Distributor, pyrolysis oil was successfully co-processed in the FCC at Preem’s Lysekil refinery to produce partially renewable transportation fuel. In Canada, Arbios Biotech however is looking to compete for its bio-oil compared to pyrolysis oil using Licella’s patented hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) technology known as the catalytic hydrothermal reactor (Cat-HTR™ platform. Arbios Biotech is a JV between Canadian Forest Products (Canfor) and Licella Holdings Ltd. Arbios’ Cat-HTR™ technology uses water under high pressure and temperature to convert a range of biomass wastes and residues into bio-oil. The company recently decided to proceed with the development of a pioneer plant in Prince George, British Columbia, which will initially convert 25,000 dry tonnes of wood residue to 50,000 bbls/year of bio-oil in one processing line, and the facility is scheduled to start in the first half of 2023.