Fast pyrolysis of biomass in a circulating fluidised bed reactor
The objective of this work was to design, construct, test and operate a novel circulating fluid bed fast pyrolysis reactor system for production of liquids from biomass. The novelty lies in incorporating an integral char combustor to provide autothermal operation. A reactor design methodology was devised which correlated input parameters to process variables, namely temperature, heat transfer and gas/vapour residence time, for both the char combustor and biomass pyrolyser. From this methodology a CFB reactor was designed with integral char combustion for 10 kg/h biomass throughput. A full-scale cold model of the CFB unit was constructed and tested to derive suitable hydrodynamic relationships and performance constraints. Early difficulties encountered with poor solids circulation and inefficient product recovery were overcome by a series of modifications. A total of 11 runs in a pyrolysis mode were carried out with a maximum total liquids yield of 61.50% wt on a maf biomass basis, obtained at 500°C and with 0.46 s gas/vapour residence time. This could be improved by improved vapour recovery by direct quenching up to an anticipated 75 % wt on a moisture-and-ash-free biomass basis. The reactor provides a very high specific throughput of 1.12 - 1.48 kg/hm2 and the lowest gas-to-feed ratio of 1.3 - 1.9 kg gas/kg feed compared to other fast pyrolysis processes based on pneumatic reactors and has a good scale-up potential. These features should provide significant capital cost reduction. Results to date suggest that the process is limited by the extent of char combustion. Future work will address resizing of the char combustor to increase overall system capacity, improvement in solid separation and substantially better liquid recovery. Extended testing will provide better evaluation of steady state operation and provide data for process simulation and reactor modeling.