Pyrolysis bio oil feedstock is one of the most difficult precursors in the world to convert to bio-based fuel. Because pyrolysis uses heat to break down biomass, the resulting oil contains high levels of oxygen and acids and is unstable at the high temperatures used in refinery processing. The instability makes conversion into hydrocarbon fuels more difficult and causes the catalysts to be degraded more quickly. This accelerated catalyst degradation can make bio-oil conversion prohibitively costly compared to conversion of petroleum-based oils.
As part of a DOE-sponsored project, Battelle and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed a novel catalyst for conversion of pyrolysis bio oil feedstock. The new catalyst did not degrade as quickly as traditional catalysts, allowing for more bio oil production. The bio oil was also higher quality than the oil produced with traditional catalysts.
The new catalyst produced higher quality oil and demonstrated better long-term hydrotreatment catalyst performance with pyrolysis bio oil feedstock. Longer-lasting catalysts can reduce the processing costs for bio-based fuels, making them more price competitive and commercially viable. The higher quality oil may prove easier to finish to biofuel in the hydroprocessing step.