Challenges and Advances in Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis of Biomass using Zeolites

Meeting Program — January 2015

Dr. Julia Val­la
Chem­i­cal and Bio­mol­e­c­u­lar Engi­neer­ing Depart­ment
Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut, Storrs, CT

Ther­mo­chem­i­cal con­ver­sion of bio­mass to ener­gy, fuels and chem­i­cals is an attrac­tive tech­nol­o­gy for the tran­si­tion from fos­sil resources to a renew­able-based econ­o­my. Cat­alyt­ic Fast Pyrol­y­sis (CFP) of bio­mass is a par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing tech­nol­o­gy for bio­mass con­ver­sion con­sid­er­ing the already exten­sive infra­struc­ture for hydro­car­bons pro­duc­tion. How­ev­er, many chal­lenges remain unsolved before the deploy­ment of the bio­mass CFP can be real­ized, includ­ing: a) char and coke for­ma­tion, which caus­es rapid cat­a­lyst deac­ti­va­tion; and b) high oxy­gen con­tent in the bio-oil, which makes it incom­pat­i­ble with today’s hydro­car­bon fuels. With respect to the first chal­lenge, it is imper­a­tive to first under­stand the ori­gin and the for­ma­tion of char and coke dur­ing CFP. Con­sid­er­ing the sec­ond chal­lenge, it is impor­tant to under­stand which cat­a­lyst prop­er­ties can enhance the deoxy­gena­tion reac­tions and increase the bio-oil selec­tiv­i­ty to hydro­car­bons. ZSM-5 zeo­lites have been rec­og­nized as one of the most promis­ing zeo­lites for CFP due to their shape selec­tiv­i­ty and their deoxy­gena­tion abil­i­ty. How­ev­er, their micro­p­ore struc­ture can lim­it the acces­si­bil­i­ty of heavy com­pounds to the active sites of their frame­work. Mod­i­fy­ing the zeo­lite pore archi­tec­ture to cre­ate hier­ar­chi­cal struc­tures could pro­vide a solu­tion to this chal­lenge. Fur­ther­more, the CFP process design itself (in situ or ex situ) can alter the prod­uct yield and selec­tiv­i­ty and, thus, the bio-oil qual­i­ty. Dur­ing this pre­sen­ta­tion we will dis­cuss how the zeo­lite prop­er­ties and loca­tion with­in the CFP process (in situ or ex situ) can affect the coke/char for­ma­tion and the deoxy­gena­tion reac­tions for enhanced bio-oil qual­i­ty.
Julia Valla
Iou­lia (Julia) Val­la is an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor in the Chem­i­cal & Bio­mol­e­c­u­lar Engi­neer­ing Depart­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut. She received her PhD in the field of the devel­op­ment of new zeo­lites for the decom­po­si­tion of sul­fur com­pounds in naph­tha and the pro­duc­tion of envi­ron­men­tal gaso­line from the Aris­to­tle Uni­ver­si­ty of Thes­sa­loni­ki in Greece. She has served in a lead­er­ship role with Rive Tech­nol­o­gy, Inc. on the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of a nov­el zeo­lite with ordered meso­porous struc­ture for refin­ery appli­ca­tions. Dr. Valla’s research focus­es on the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of zeo­lites struc­ture and their appli­ca­tion in catal­y­sis, adsorp­tion and ener­gy. She is the author/­co-author of 9 papers in peer-reviewed jour­nals, 1 book chap­ter and 2 patents. Dr. Val­la is the recip­i­ent of the Euro­pean Award “RUCADI, Recov­ery and Uti­liza­tion of Car­bon Diox­ide” for her study on the role of CO2 on the reform­ing of nat­ur­al gas for the pro­duc­tion of methanol. At the Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut, Dr. Val­la received an award spon­sored by the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion for the study “Turn­ing Tars into Ener­gy: Zeo­lites with Hier­ar­chi­cal Pore Struc­ture for the Cat­alyt­ic Removal of Tars”. The study is focused on a nov­el appli­ca­tion of hier­ar­chi­cal­ly struc­tured meso­porous bifunc­tion­al cat­a­lysts for the ther­mo­chem­i­cal upgrad­ing of unde­sir­able tars from bio­mass pyrol­y­sis or gasi­fi­ca­tion to valu­able hydro­car­bons.