RTI International develops new biofuels research facility

By RTI International | October 17, 2012

RTI International has begun construction on a new 3,000-square-foot energy technology development facility on RTI’s main campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

The facility will house a biomass pyrolysis reactor to further extend RTI’s biofuels research efforts. Using RTI’s technology, the goal is to produce a suitable pyrolysis oil from locally-available biomass resources, such as pine trees, that can be substituted for petroleum in existing oil refineries.

“The new facility will allow us to take the next step along the path to commercialization of this technology,” said Dave Dayton, biofuels director in RTI's Center for Energy Technology. “If we’re successful, this could be an important new industry for North Carolina. Commercialization of this technology will help the nation meet the renewable fuels standard targets and will support North Carolina’s Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership.”

The facility is designed to support $7.1 million of research sponsored by the U.S. DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and from the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy over the next three years. 

RTI’s work in the new facility will focus on developing a process for the catalytic pyrolysis of biomass, supported by lab scale testing of catalysts and the design, construction and operation of a demonstration unit that produces pyrolysis oil from biomass materials such as woods chips. Once operational, the demonstration unit will process 1 ton a day of biomass to produce up to 60 gallons of pyrolysis oil per day in the new facility.

A second, follow-on project is planned that will include integrated biofuels process development.

The first phase of facility development will include the construction of a metal building, with completion expected in December 2012. The second phase of construction will include installation of the biomass catalytic pyrolysis reactor, with completion expected in February 2013.