Distributed processing of biomass to bio-oil for subsequent production of Fischer-Tropsch liquids



This study compares centralized processing to distributed processing of biomass for subsequent production of Fischer-Tropsch liquids (FTLs) at a centralized catalytic synthesis facility. Distributed processing in this study is based on fast pyrolysis to bio-oils, which are more economically transported to a centralized F-T plant where bio-oil is gasi?ed and the syngas catalytically converted to FTLs. The study indicates that a centralized gasi? cation plant can produce FTLs from biomass for $1.56 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (gge) in an optimally sized plant of 550 million gge per year. Three distributed processing systems were investigated based on the scale of biomass processing capacity: ‘on-farm’ pyrolyzers of 5.4 ton per day (tpd) capacity; ‘small cooperative’ pyrolyzers of 55 tpd capacity, and ‘large cooperative’ pyrolyzers of 550 tpd capacity. Distributed processing is combined with very large centralized bio-oil processing plants that accept bio-oil for catalytic upgrading to transportation fuels, achieving costs as low as $1.43 for total fuel production capacities in excess of 2500 million gge. Total capital investment (distributed pyrolyzers and centralized bio-oil processing plant) for this optimally sized distributed processing system is projected to be $4 billion compared to $1.6 billion for the centralized biomass processing facility. © 2008 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd