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OSU team developing Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology for production of liquid hydrocarbons

Researchers at Oklahoma State University are developing a novel natural Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology that will synergistically use biomass (e.g. switchgrass and eastern red cedar) and methane to produce liquid hydrocarbons that are compatible with existing infrastructure.

The work is led by Dr. Ajay Kumar in collaboration with Dr. Allen Apblett. The team uses a synergistic reaction system consisting of activation of methane and deoxygenation of pyrolysis-derived volatiles with metal-loaded HZSM-5 catalysts.

Bio-oil produced from biomass fast pyrolysis technology can be converted into hydrocarbons; however, this process is challenging due to the instability of bio-oil. The bio-oil must be de-oxygenated and additional hydrogen must be added to maximize hydrocarbon production. Traditional bio-oil upgrading usually involves extensive hydrotreating, which is energy intensive and costly.

We found that methane significantly improved the yield and selectivity for the formation of aromatic hydrocarbons in the bio-oil obtained from catalytic pyrolysis of biomass. Methane did not show effective improvement in the yield of aromatic hydrocarbons from cellulose and hemicellulose in the presence of molybdenum modified HZSM-5 catalysts, but significantly improved the aromatic hydrocarbons from lignin.

—Ajay Kumar

Torrefaction pretreatment on switchgrass did not increase the aromatic hydrocarbon yield; the pretreatment process unfavorably altered the biomass composition by reducing cellulose content while increasing lignin content. The aromatic hydrocarbon yield decreased as the torrefaction temperature increased from 230 to 270 ˚C, Kumar said.

The project shows that direct co-conversion of biomass and methane with an appropriately designed catalyst leads to significant improvements in hydrocarbon yields.

The direct conversion of biomass pyrolysis volatiles and methane in a catalytic reactor is a unique approach that makes it possible to produce hydrocarbon fuels more efficiently than traditional pyrolysis-based refinery processes.

—Ajay Kumar

Demonstration of the proof-of-concept through optimization and analysis of economic feasibility is underway. Dr. Kumar collaborated with two other OSU Professors from the Department of Agricultural Economics, Drs. Francis Epplin and Phil Kenkel, for this part of the study. Funding of this project was provided by the US Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.


  • Zixu Yang, Ajay Kumar, Allen W. Apblett and Ahmed M. Moneeb (2017) “Co-Pyrolysis of torrefied biomass and methane over molybdenum modified bimetallic HZSM-5 catalyst for hydrocarbons production” Green Chemistry 19, 757-768 doi: 10.1039/C6GC02497A

  • Zixu Yang, Ajay Kumar, Allen Apblett (2016) “Integration of biomass catalytic pyrolysis and methane aromatization over Mo/HZSM-5 catalysts,” Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, Volume 120, Pages 484-492 doi: 10.1016/j.jaap.2016.06.021


Henry Gibson

Biomass is the current keyword for renewable energy; since we are pretending that the sun is not using fossil fuel and that it will last forever, but mainly we are pretending that the human population of the earth, even the human population of the US, does not feed on biomass directly or indirectly, and that there is unlimited areas of land to grow all biomass needed for food and fuel for all humans, all animals, domestic and otherwise, and all other living creatures of single cell size and larger. We have removed much biomass productive lands, with the possible exception of Las Vegas Nevada, with our large cities.

We have been depleting the oceans of natural biomass production, and started farming them. Where there is unlimited water there are deficiencies of essential minerals. Surprisingly it seems that waters of colder regions produce very attractive sources of solar powered biomass.

Stop destroying natural forests and all their creatures, including a very few humans as yet not redeemed by electric air-conditioning, for "renewable" oil trees on non renewable land.

Every island and other nation destroyed most forests and meadows etc. before fossil fuels were discovered and used.

The sun uses the fossil fuel hydrogen for most of its energy. There is some of it left, but the earth only gets 1/2,000,000,000 of the energy, and the sun has lived almost half of its hydrogen life. The earth has wasted most of its uranium isotope 235 and has only a small amount left, but enough to initiate the production of additional nuclear fuels in abundance for the life of the earth. Without Uranium 235 humans would have to institute Carlo Rubbia's Energy Amplifier, US5774514, to enter into the atomic age with thorium and lead where lead atoms are blasted into pieces with high energy protons and produce about 20 neutrons per proton which can be used to produce fissionable uranium from thorium, and gradually building up fuels for many reactors. Uranium isotope 238 can also be used somewhere in the process, and there is enough of that alone without ever needing the three times more abundant thorium, and humans can make food from local fission reactors instead of the present distant fusion reactor.

Just to allow people more complaints about the use of fossil fuels it must be said that all iron, nickel, copper etc., all elements on the earth, except some hydrogen, are fossil deposits from exploding stars, and this includes thorium and lead and uranium and gold. All natural elements with more protons and neutrons than iron, can give off energy if split, and the ones with the most, both isotopes of Uranium, give off the most energy per atom.

All of the atoms produced by splitting Uranium or Thorium are not radio-active and many others only for a short period of time. Uranium fissions all by itself anywhere it is and this started chain reactions in uranium ore bodies millions of years ago when there was much more Uranium isotope 235, but it also means that all of the radioactive fission products are produced in nature that are produced in reactors, but some radioactive materials are produced from the neutrons of a reactor that are not produced as often in nature such as the many isotopes of plutonium and any such isotopes with higher atomic weight than uranium should be captured and put back into reactors rather than trying to store it. The CANDU reactors can do this most conveniently.

Potassium in all plants and animals gives off gamma rays and beta rays, so there is no way to avoid them. Potassium 40 represents the largest source of radioactivity, greater even than Carbon 14. In a human body of 70 kg mass, about 4,400 nuclei of Potassium 40 decay per second giving off a gamma ray and beta ray.

So humans have lived with radioactivity all their existence, and a bit more or less makes very little difference compared to drivers texting in a car you ride in as the driver or otherwise and the other dangers of life. Human and other life can exist and has existed with radioactivity and has developed defenses and repairs. One type of mold grows in reactor buildings near enough to get enough gamma rays to use like sunlight and grow. ..HG..

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