Conventional energy processes based on petroleum feedstocks (e.g. Fluid Catalytic Cracking, Hydroprocessing, Hydrocracking and Delayed Coking) can play a vital role in facilitating understanding of the process engineering aspects for in situ and ex situ catalytic fast pyrolysis vapor upgrading. The higher oxygen content of biomass and its tendency towards coke and gaseous species formation serves as a major differentiating factor between conventional petroleum refining processes and biomass-based thermochemical processes like pyrolysis.
The development of 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels annually by 2022 is mandated by the U.S. Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007. The potential of in situ and ex situ upgrading of fast pyrolysis vapors as one of the promising research options for thermochemical conversion of biomass to liquid transportation fuels has been explored in a recent NREL and PNNL thermochemical research pathway process design report (http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy15osti/62455.pdf). Based on the understanding derived from process engineering literature on Fluid Catalytic Cracking, the possible scale-up implications of a significant coke content (~10% of biomass) observed in current experimental studies on catalytic fast pyrolysis vapor upgrading can be extrapolated. This presentation shall also reflect upon the differences noticed in conventional petroleum hydrodesulfurization and biomass hydrodeoxygenation reactions, from a process engineering standpoint.