Development of integrated assessment platform for biofuels production via fast pyrolysis and upgrading pathway

Zhang, Yanan
Major Professor
Robert Brown
Guiping Hu
Committee Member
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Mechanical Engineering
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Mechanical Engineering

Growing concern over Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from petroleum-based fuel consumption have prompted interest in the production of alternative transportation fuels from biorenewable sources. As required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and mandated petroleum refineries and oil importers to increase the volume of renewable fuel that is blended into petroleum-based transportation fuels. Although biomass is a promising renewable energy for fuels and chemicals production, the technology, economics and environmental issues for bioenergy systems should be extensively evaluated.

Other researchers have analyzed bioenergy systems from a number of different perspectives but these perspectives have not been combined into an integrated analysis methodology because of the large number of disparate disciplinary fields that would have to be considered including bioenergy sciences and engineering, environmental sciences, economics, optimization, and numerical modeling. Nor is it a simple matter to integrate the different analytical methods used in economic assessment, environmental impact evaluation, supply chain management, and logistic planning.

This dissertation explores the development of integrated assessment platform for biofuels production, using separate modules to evaluate process engineering, economic feasibility, logistics of supply, and environmental impact within a general framework. Four modules are included: process simulation (module A), economics analysis (module B), life cycle assessment (module C), and supply chain & logistics optimization (module D). In this dissertation, the specific instance of production of drop-

in biofuels using fast pyrolysis and upgrading is employed as the case study to examine this methodology. Two different bio-oil upgrading pathways are examined using this integrated assessment platform: 1. commodity chemicals production via forest residue fast pyrolysis and hydrotreating/fluidized catalytic cracking (FCC) pathway 2. Co-production of hydrogen and transportation fuels via corn stover fast pyrolysis and hydrotreating/hydrocracking pathway. The preliminary results prove that this developed integrated assessment methodology is a powerful tool to evaluate the biofuels production via fast pyrolysis pathway. This integrated assessment platform could also extended for other energy resource examination.