Back in September of 2008 UOP, a Honeywell company, and Ensyn announced they would form a new joint venture company to use UOP’s Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP) technology expected to use municipal, farm and forestry wastes. This new company would also accelerate research and development efforts to commercialize UOP’s next-generation upgrading technology to refine the pyrolysis oil into transport fuels such as green gasoline, green diesel and green jet fuel.

So last Tuesday’s announcement that the joint venture called Envergent Technologies, LLC. isn’t a surprise so much a as a deal on its way. Ensyn has been in business more than 20 years of commercial experience with its technology producing pyrolysis oil for various natural chemical and fuel products. Ensyn’s technology is already currently utilized in eight commercial biomass processing plants in the U.S. and Canada.

A close reading of last week’s press release shows that the new firm is going to market the UOP technology with Ensyn expertise. That suggests there is more market out there for recycling wastes to fuels than the popular press shows. More is going on than generally thought.

Rapid Thermal Processing Unit From UOP

Rapid Thermal Processing Unit From UOP

The Ensyn expertise is built on a very slick and sophisticated pyrolysis unit made by UOP. The RTP process is a fast thermal process where biomass is rapidly heated in the absence of oxygen. The biomass is vaporized and then rapidly cooled to generate high yields of pyrolysis oil. The process utilizes a circulating transported fluidized bed reactor system similar to that used in the UOP Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) technology from the petroleum industry. The process typically yields between 65wt% to 75wt% pyrolysis oil from dried woody biomass that can be utilized as fuel for industrial heat and electrical power generation.

At near carbon neutral, pyrolysis should get a lot of attention if the cap and tax scheme from the President and Congress gets threatening traction.

RTP Product Flow Chart. Click image for a larger view.

RTP Product Flow Chart. Click image for a larger view.

But the main hint of what’s to come is the constant suggestion that the new joint venture is going to focus on high-grade transport fuels taking pyrolysis to a wider product level. Each public document from both companies has a bit noting that they know its possible and they’re working on it.

What is even more interesting is the thinking going from the RTP process already commercial in scale and economics to the next stage where marginal land could be productive across a wide range of plants and trees up to miscanthus and switchgrass on highly erodeable soils.

Almost quietly, pyrolysis has been gaining technological prowess. And much to the customer’s interest is that the technology can be at large scale for recurring feedstock supplies and can be modularized for compact, small footprints that, while not suggested yet, might be semi or fully portable. That would seize a lot of attention where land for food production isn’t practical making new income earning a fresh possibility.

Ensyn's Renfrew Ontario RTP Processer. Click image for a larger view.

Ensyn's Renfrew Ontario RTP Processer. Click image for a larger view.

Over the past twenty years Ensyn has designed and operated eight RTP units that use a variety of biomass feedstocks and show excellent on-stream reliability. Its newest unit in Renfrew, Ontario processes up to 100 metric tons-per-day of dry biomass.

The current technology yields electrical power and a fuel oil substitute with transport fuels coming soon. The unanswered question is the rest of the feedstock – that 25 to 35% left over. There is a growing sense of interest in the agricultural community that if the pyrolysis business gets going with a char or charcoal product to return to the fields, with its great fertility addition to the soil, pyrolysis should have a hugely positive future. Even the global warming crowd should love it, as the carbon returned in char form stays put for decades if not longer.

Stimulus from government or not, competition to fossil fuels is coming. The list of suppliers to a pyrolysis units are staggering, from the Chevron-Weyerhaeuser forestry deal to small landowners clearing away fire debris to marginal land going back into the economy on to intensive farming of specific plants – there’s a whole lot a fuel out there for the taking.


3 Comments so far

  1. pharmacist on November 8, 2010 4:36 AM

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Dr. C. G. Anand on October 31, 2011 8:15 AM

    I am very much intersetin this Rapid Thermal Processing Unit, but there is no details about the power sorce for heating. Is it solar collector or other source. What could be the cost of units of small size for using agricultural waste at farm level say one ton per day.

    Thanks. An ticipating this information at earliest.

    Dr. C. G. Anand

  3. Barry Haslam-Walker on November 1, 2012 4:17 AM

    Can the RTP be applied to converting MSW (food) to energy ?

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