Using mobile distributed pyrolysis facilities to deliver a forest residue resource for bio-fuel production




Brown, Duncan

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Distributed mobile conversion facilities using either fast pyrolysis or torrefaction processes can be used to convert forest residues to more energy dense substances (bio-oil, bio-slurry or torrefied wood) that can be transported as feedstock for bio-fuel facilities. All feedstock are suited for gasification, which produces syngas that can be used to synthesise petrol or diesel via Fischer-Tropsch reactions, or produce hydrogen via water gas shift reactions. Alternatively, the bio-oil product of fast pyrolysis may be upgraded to produce petrol and diesel, or can undergo steam reformation to produce hydrogen. Implementing a network of mobile facilities reduces the energy content of forest residues delivered to a bio-fuel facility as mobile facilities use a fraction of the biomass energy content to meet thermal or electrical demands. The total energy delivered by bio-oil, bio-slurry and torrefied wood is 45%, 65% and 87% of the initial forest residue energy content, respectively. However, implementing mobile facilities is economically feasible when large transport distances are required. For an annual harvest of 1.717 million m3 (equivalent to 2000 ODTPD), transport costs are reduced to less than 40% of the total levelised delivered feedstock cost when mobile facilities are implemented; transport costs account for up to 80% of feedstock costs for conventional woodchip delivery. Torrefaction provides the lowest cost pathway of delivering a forest residue resource when using mobile facilities. Cost savings occur against woodchip delivery for annual forest residue harvests above 2.25 million m3 or when transport distances greater than 250 km are required. Important parameters that influence levelised delivered costs of feedstock are transport distances (forest residue spatial density), haul cost factors, thermal and electrical demands of mobile facilities, and initial moisture content of forest residues. Relocating mobile facilities can be optimised for lowest cost delivery as transport distances of raw biomass are reduced. The overall cost of bio-fuel production is determined by the feedstock delivery pathway and also the bio-fuel production process employed. Results show that the minimum cost of petrol and diesel production is 0.86 $ litre-1 when a bio-oil feedstock is upgraded. This corresponds to a 2750 TPD upgrading facility requiring an annual harvest of 4.30 million m3. The minimum cost of hydrogen production is 2.92 $ kg-1, via the gasification of a woodchip feedstock and subsequent water gas shift reactions. This corresponds to a 1100 ODTPD facility and requires an annual harvest of 947,000 m3. The levelised cost of bio-fuel strongly depends on the size of annual harvest required for bio-fuel facilities. There are optimal harvest volumes (bio-fuel facility sizes) for each bio-fuel production route, which yield minimum bio-fuel production costs. These occur as the benefits of economies of scale for larger bio-fuel facilities compete against increasing transport costs for larger harvests. Optimal harvest volumes are larger for bio-fuel production routes that use feedstock sourced from mobile facilities, as mobile facilities reduce total transport requirements.



forest residue, pyrolysis, torrefaction, bio-fuel, bio-oil, techno-economic