Biofuels from Pyrolysis

Research Triangle Institute (RTI)
Catalytic Biocrude Production in a Novel, Short-Contact Time Reactor
Graphic of RTI's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,111,693
Location: 
Durham, NC
Project Term: 
01/01/2010 to 09/30/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Transformational biofuels technologies, like catalytic biomass pyrolysis, have the potential to substantially enhance the economic and energy security of the U.S. by converting abundant domestic biomass resources--such as the leaves, husks or stalks from corn--into transportation fuel. As this biomass conversion technology matures toward commercialization, opportunities across the industry will become available for providers of raw materials, technology developers, refiners, and fuel distributors.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
RTI is developing a new pyrolysis process to convert second-generation biomass into biofuels in one simple step. Pyrolysis is the decomposition of substances by heating--the same process used to render wood into charcoal, caramelize sugar, and dry roast coffee and beans. RTI's catalytic biomass pyrolysis differs from conventional flash pyrolysis in that its end product contains less oxygen, metals, and nitrogen--all of which contribute to corrosion, instability, and inefficiency in the fuel-production process. This technology is expected to easily integrate into the existing domestic petroleum refining infrastructure, making it an economically attractive option for biofuels production.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, RTI's project would decrease the production cost of domestic biofuels, enabling a cost-competitive alternative to petroleum-based fuel.
Security: 
Increasing the production of domestic biofuels could help the U.S. cut foreign oil imports by 33% in 15 years.
Environment: 
Domestic biofuels could replace over 1 billion barrels of oil and 58 million tons of coal from 2020-2030 while reducing nearly 700 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Economy: 
Enabling alternatives to petroleum-based fuels would reduce and stabilize gas prices for consumers.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ping Liu
Project Contact: 
Dr. David Dayton
Partners
Archer Daniels Midland Company
ConocoPhillips