(551b) Environmental Life Cycle Implications of Near-Term Fast Pyrolysis Products

Spatari, S. - Presenter, Drexel University
Pourhashem, G., Drexel University
Boateng, A. A., USDA-ARS
Mullen, C. A., USDA-ARS

Bio-oil from fast pyrolysis is under development to produce “synthetic” forms of crude oil substitutes.  While much research is needed to develop upgraded “drop-in” fuels for transportation markets, near-term applications of pyrolysis bio-oil could serve interim electrical and thermal end uses.  We analyze the environmental benefits and economics of producing small-scale/on-farm pyrolysis bio-oil as a way of densifying biomass and delivering it to electricity markets in Pennsylvania to support state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).  Specifically, we analyze the life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG), energy, and cost of fast pyrolysis bio-oil production from corn stover at 200 dry metric tons per day, and evaluate the tradeoffs of using the biochar coproduct for energy or as a land amendment within the agricultural sector. The results show GHG emissions of 72 and -62 g CO2e per kWh of bio-oil electricity for coal cofiring and land amendment, respectively. Cofiring bio-char with coal displaces more fossil energy than does land application. We discuss the potential for bio-oil and bio-char penetrating near-term electricity markets (c. 2015). Analysis shows that the electricity produced from burning pyrolysis oil and bio-char with variable operating costs of $93/MWh and $18/MWh, respectively, can compete with electricity generated from fuel oil and coal. Small scale pyrolysis bio-oil may be an economically viable and environmentally sustainable near-term option for peak power production and for using as a fuel to meet the state’s renewable energy policy commitments. Results from this research could be extended to other states in the U.S. with RPS policy.