Commercializing Autothermal Pyrolysis: A Carbon-Negative Process for Renewable Fuels and Products

T. Daugaard, R. Smith, J. Funkhouser
Rise Energy, LLC.,
United States

Keywords: autothermal pyrolysis, bio-oil, char


Global renewable energy production has several key voids: 1) limited supply of cost-effective renewable fuels; 2) limitations in electrification, specifically aviation and heavy industrial vehicles; 3) limitations in centralized processing of low-density renewable feedstocks. Rise Energy, LLC. is commercializing Iowa State University’s autothermal pyrolysis technology to address these voids by producing carbon negative intermediates for renewable fuel and chemical industry. Our proprietary core technology, autothermal pyrolysis, converts biomass into three co-products: phenolic oil, pyrolytic sugar, and biochar. The phenolic oil and pyrolytic sugar are liquid intermediate products that can be sold to refiners for upgrading to renewable fuels such as diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, or alternatively used as a binder in bio-asphalt. Our biochar product can be used as a soil amendment and serve as a solid source of carbon sequestration. The autothermal process balances endothermic and exothermic reactions to provide the necessary heat required to convert biomass into renewable products. Autothermal pyrolysis overcomes the heating bottlenecks in traditional biomass thermal processes and reduces the size of capital-intensive equipment. This enables economically lucrative biorefineries to produce sugar and phenolic oil streams used as building blocks in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. Biomass is often too dispersed and low in energy density. This requires current biofuel plants to use economies of scale and therefore be built in large capacities such as 2,000 tons per day of biomass input. Due to the large-scale, these plants must be custom designed and built on-site leading to high cost and financial risk. Rise Energy’s technology, however, enables scaling down to capacities more suitable for using biomass in a distributed manner. Our commercial biorefineries are projected to be 250 tons per day or 1/8th of competing biomass technologies. Furthermore, our biorefineries can be designed as modular systems that are produced in a factory, deployed, and field assembled. This enables faster learning curves for manufacturing and drives down the capital cost of a mature plant. We envision a hub and spoke model of Rise Energy biorefineries. These plants will be co-located with multiple feedstock sources, producing, and supplying intermediates to a centralized refining offtake partner for upgrading to fuels and products. Rise Energy is currently working with customers to scale the technology to commercial throughput of 250 tons per day. A commercial plant will yield approximately 30-50 tons per day of biochar, 25-35 tons per day of sugar, and 25-35 tons per day of phenolic oil. The remainder of the mass is used internally to generate the heat and power required for the plant eliminating the need for external energy resources. Rise Energy’s vision is to mass produce biorefineries for the global production of sustainable energy and usable carbon sequestration agents. The implementation of this vision will lead to: 1) job creation, particularly in rural areas; 2) production of cost-competitive renewable fuels and products typically produced from petroleum; 3) carbon sequestration that improves soil quality.