(82a) NREL's Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility - Pilot Scale Risk Mitigation

Fisher, J. C., National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Schell, D. J., National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Elander, R. T., National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Sievers, D. A., National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Shekiro, J. III, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Johnston, T., National Renewable Energy Laboratory

NREL’s Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility – Pilot Scale Risk Mitigation

Jane C. Fisher, P.E., Daniel J. Schell, Richard T. Elander, David A. Sievers, Joseph Shekiro, and Timothy Johnston, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

To achieve commercial-scale production of cellulosic ethanol at a cost that is competitive with gasoline, it is crucial to understand the entire integrated biorefining process and how one stage of the process can impact the performance of the others.  With the addition of the Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility (IBRF) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the cellulosic biofuels industry has access to a significantly expanded pilot plant and biochemical conversion process research facility.  At NREL, the goal is to improve the cost effectiveness of cellulosic biofuels production processes and thereby to accelerate commercial scale deployment of these technologies.  A number of aggressive government policies are guiding NREL’s approach to cellulosic ethanol and other cellulosic biofuels research and development (R&D), including the 2007 Energy and Independence and Security Act requiring 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, and President Obama’s New Energy for America Plan calling for 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2030. The IBRF’s R&D piloting capabilities will enable a wide variety of biofuels technology developers to reduce risks associated with scaling up to demonstration and full-commercial scales.  The IBRF was completed in two stages and includes provisions to accommodate a broad and flexible range of equipment and processing options and configurations.  These include front end capability to feed/mill a wide assortment of sustainable biomass feedstocks (corn stover, switch grass, sorghum, etc), horizontal and vertical reactor designs that enable a variety of biomass pretreatment operating conditions and chemistries to be evaluated, as well as the ability to perform high solids cellulose enzymatic hydrolysis.  During completion of the first stage startup and commissioning a number of issues were encountered and to some extent resolved.  Second stage design modifications were implemented to address issues experienced during the first stage.  Design considerations as well as lessons learned during first and second stage facility commissioning, startup, and operation will be discussed.