(479a) Challenges In the Solids Processing of Biomass



It is often assumed for many biomass-based processes that biomass will be available to the plant at low cost and already in a condition which the subsequent processing (e.g. chemical processing or pyrolysis) can handle/tolerate.  Unfortunately, this is in most cases an erroneous assumption.   Here, we address the myriad of front-end challenges associated with the gathering, long-term storage, size reduction, classification, storage and other solids handling unit operations.   The discussion will draw upon the author’s experience with a large scale wheat straw handling facility.   Numerous opportunities exist for optimizing the collection of biomass and there is inevitably the trade-off between the value of the biomass versus the radius around the plant from which it can be collected.    Short term storage of biomass represents a unique challenge as it is prone to elastic wind-up, making it very difficult to remove from hoppers and silos.   Subsequent handling within the plant presents its own unique set of challenges – plugging, erosive wear, segregation, process safety hazards, solid-liquid separation, etc. can all be troublesome problems for a biomass-based facility.    The advantages and disadvantages of various solids processing strategies are examined and how they impact the operability of a biomass processing plant.