George Huber, the Armstrong Associate Professor at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, likely the most prolific chemical engineering researcher today has published a paper in Science outlining a new pyrolysis oil process that yields chemical feedstock and fuel type products. The Huber team members are Tushar Vispute, Aimaro Sanno, Huiyan Zhang at UMass and Rui Xiao at Southeast University, Nanjing, China.

The report outlines a way to produce high-volume chemical feedstocks including benzene, toluene, xylenes and olefins from pyrolysis produced bio-oils, the cheapest liquid fuels available today derived from biomass.  Huber’s new process could reduce or eliminate industry’s reliance on fossil fuels to make industrial chemicals worth an estimated $400 billion annually, reducing the crude oil demand further.

Now widely available, although in small quantities, pyrolysis oil made from waste wood, agricultural waste and non-food energy crops could produce the same high-value materials for making everything from solvents and detergents to plastics and fibers.  Getting the pyrolysis oil volume up lacks only the willingness not to throw things away to landfills or dispose of feedstocks by allowing them to waste away.

Huber Pyrolysis Plant. Click image for the largest view.

Huber comments with, “Thanks to this breakthrough, we can meet the need to make commodity chemical feedstocks entirely through processing pyrolysis oils. We are making the same molecules from biomass that are currently being produced from petroleum, with no infrastructure changes required. We think this technology will provide a big boost to the economy because pyrolysis oils are commercially available now. The major difference between our approach and the current (chemical production) method is the feedstock; our process uses a renewable feedstock, that is, plant biomass. Rather than purchasing petroleum to make these chemicals, we use pyrolysis oils made from non-food agricultural crops and woody biomass grown domestically. This will also provide United States farmers and landowners a large additional revenue stream.”

Current pyrolysis oil treatments yield at low rates.  Huber adds, “But here we show how to achieve three times higher yields of chemicals from pyrolysis oil than ever achieved before. We’ve essentially provided a roadmap for converting low-value pyrolysis oils into products with a higher value than transportation fuels.”

The paper shows how to make olefins such as ethylene and propylene, the building blocks of many plastics and resins, plus aromatics such as benzene, toluene and xylenes found in dyes, plastics and polyurethane, from biomass-based pyrolysis oils. The team uses a two-step, integrated catalytic approach starting with a “tunable,” variable-reaction hydrogenation stage followed by a second, zeolite catalytic step. The zeolite catalyst has the proper pore structure and active sites to convert biomass-based molecules into aromatic hydrocarbons and olefins.

Huber Pyrolysis Oil Refining Process Block Flow Diagram. Click image for the largest view.

The exciting part is the ability to “tune” the output to meet markets opportunities. The team discusses how to choose among three options including low and high-temperature hydrogenation steps as well as the zeolite conversion for optimal results. Their findings indicate, “the olefin-to-aromatic ratio and the types of olefins and aromatics produced can be adjusted according to market demand.” That is, using the new techniques, chemical producers can manage the carbon content from biomass they need, as well as hydrogen amounts.  This news is of massive significance.  Trash is far more valuable now than anyone has been expecting.

Huber’s team goes so far as to provide economic calculations for determining the optimal mix of hydrogen and pyrolytic oils, depending on market prices, to yield the highest-grade product at the lowest cost.  This idea has legs.

A pilot plant using the new method is now producing these chemicals on a liter-quantity scale on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus.

The technology has been licensed to Anellotech Corp., co-founded by Dr. Huber and David Sudolsky of New York City. Anellotech is also developing a Huber research team technology to convert solid biomass directly into chemicals, making pyrolysis oil a second renewable feedstock for Anellotech.

Sudolsky, Anellotech’s CEO, says, “There are several companies developing technology to produce pyrolysis oil from biomass. The problem has been that pyrolysis oils must be upgraded to be useable. But with the new UMass Amherst process, Anellotech can now convert these pyrolysis oils into valuable chemicals at higher efficiency and with very attractive economics. This is very exciting.”

So it is.  Humanity buries, piles up, and spreads around an enormous amount of useful biomatter every year.  It’s getting so that all that “waste” has value, and the value is more than expected with Huber’s new process.  A three-fold increase with tunable output is a huge shift in the cost and profitability of waste management.

Huber has taken us one giant leap closer to a full carbon cycle in biomatter.


32 Comments so far

  1. Richard Pescod on December 9, 2010 12:19 PM

    How dry feedstocks should be??

  2. maina kiambigi on December 15, 2010 5:54 AM

    need some more details

  3. Chowdary K K on January 24, 2011 2:08 AM

    Sounds great…!
    When can we expect this technology to be available for commercial plant setup. We are presently planning to setup a pyrolysis plant in India. Probably this technology help us refine the pyrolysis better and increase the commercial value. We are interested to discuss this further.

  4. Rajesh Agarwal on March 18, 2011 6:13 AM

    This will be really a gr8 achievement by the master (Dr. Huber and David Sudolsky of New York City.) and his team.

    Well we would like to implement this project in INDIA, if any grant and help is provided. Lets hope the future will be bright in the field of petroleum and its product.

    The biggest revolution will be in the field of waste converted to money and will help the world waste problem and save the earth.

  5. Magaret Likar on August 27, 2011 3:51 AM

    Thanks for posting. Good to see that not everyone is using RSS feeds to build their blogs 😉

  6. Christopher Rahr on September 1, 2011 11:09 AM

    I would like to say “wow” what a inspiring post. This is really great. Keep doing what you’re doing!!

  7. Kati Edd on September 8, 2011 11:54 AM

    Awesome post. I so good to see someone taking the time to share this information

  8. Brice Bartl on September 16, 2011 10:39 AM

    Of course, what a great site and informative posts, I will add backlink – bookmark this site? Regards, Reader

  9. Nitin Shukla (India) on September 17, 2011 12:05 AM

    great discovery by the professor, we would like to implement this project in india, anybody to take this project on turnkey basis ??

  10. victor on September 18, 2011 7:22 AM

    i am interested in setting up this plant in india specially in mumbai where waste is generated like toilet paper and the makes the city smelly and filthy.Please get intouch with me or send me an email at Cheers !

  11. Sahil Mehta on January 2, 2012 2:40 PM

    Thats great !!! I want to set this up in ,new delhi, India. Please revert.

  12. greeneneerg on February 3, 2012 4:45 PM

    We have developed a process that is more simple than this that achieves the same products and then some. I am actively seeking interested parties to investigate our process.

  13. Ariel on March 16, 2012 1:38 AM

    Dear sir

    My company is oilrebirth in SA,we are havin problems with disposin rejected oil from motor oil and used vegetable oil, so i wanted to know whether this process can work with this types of oil

  14. Ariel on March 16, 2012 1:51 AM

    Our company wants to process waste biomass to biofuels,biohydrocarbons,gas,biochar and biogasoline…can anyone out there help with info and the technology we should invest in..i cn reached

  15. Ayush Goenka on June 21, 2012 3:34 AM

    Our company produces pyrolysis oil treated from waste tyre. If applicable I would like setup this plant in Kolkata, India.

  16. Sam on June 23, 2012 4:41 PM

    We currently manufacture a pyrolysis plant & would like to add this process to our plant. Please advise the cost & volume of pyrolysisvoil it is able to process.

  17. Sam on June 23, 2012 4:46 PM

    We manufacture a pyrolysis plant and would like to add this process to our system. Please advise the cost and volume of pyrolysis oil your system is able to process.

  18. Gaurav on July 3, 2012 1:30 PM

    We wish to know and install the same plant in India..
    Currently we produce pyrolysis oil from waste tyres.

    Please tell me the cost and the process.

  19. Jaskaran on August 30, 2012 2:11 AM

    We are interested in setting up this plant in Punjab, India. Plz let us know the details at

  20. Amol on September 11, 2012 4:42 AM

    Please send more details on the process & equipments for my study & setup of plant in INDIA,

    Please contact

  21. swaroop on January 1, 2013 11:10 AM

    can you please send more details of this plant and machinery

  22. pyrolysis plant on January 13, 2013 7:22 AM

    Buy Pyrolysis Plant start from RESEM

  23. saltech on January 23, 2013 5:40 AM

    pls. provide the contact email id.

  24. pyrolysis plant on March 11, 2013 6:52 AM
  25. on March 23, 2013 10:29 PM

    how to recycle the waste oil?

  26. SALMAN ZAMAN on June 1, 2013 6:29 AM

    AHEAD Corporation. We would like to setup such Plant in PAKISTAN. You may please email us at with technical details for small scale setup.

    Chief Executive
    AHEAD Corp.

  27. Manad Lamaisri on December 6, 2013 6:09 AM

    Please get back your price for 100 tpd.

  28. Waseem A. Razaque on March 20, 2014 7:04 AM

    Appreciate the technology for commercial use in pakistan. Details are needed to set up.

  29. rajaram on June 5, 2014 12:13 AM

    i have coconut shell bio-oil produced from coconut shell by pyrolysis. if any one need the oil, can supply 100 mt per month regularly.

  30. Victor Valijanian on March 24, 2015 7:17 AM

    Dear Sir,

    Re : Urgent. .

    We are interested in Refined pyrolysis oil.

    Would appreciate, if you could let us have your full contact details. Enabling us to interact.

    Thanking you in advance.

  31. Lengakili Mark on July 24, 2015 6:37 AM

    Need more information about this process. Please information

  32. Bhavik on March 4, 2016 6:51 AM

    Rajaram i am interested in your bio oil from coconut shell pyrolysis.
    Contact me on 09427233433

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