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About National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] is the only national laboratory solely dedicated to advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Small Business Vouchers Pilot, NREL will connect clean energy innovators across the country with top-notch scientists, engineers, and analysts, as well as world-class facilities for research focusing on enhanced geothermal systems [EGS], low temperature geothermal applications, and geothermal systems analysis.

Capabilities

The NREL National Bioenergy Center develops, refines, and validates rapid and cost-effective, environmentally friendly biomass/biochemical/bioproducts conversion technologies to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil, improve our air quality, and support rural economies.

NREL partners with other national laboratories, academic institutions, and commercial entities at every stage of the biomass-to-biofuels conversion process. Our biomass team develops customized and analytical methods, provides training in new procedures, and helps optimize conversion from exploratory process research through to pilot-scale process runs.

NREL's bioenergy capabilities will include the following:

Biomass characterization: Perform, develop, refine, and validate rapid and cost-effective methods to determine the chemical composition of biomass samples before and after pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis.

Biochemical conversion: Improving the efficiency of the biochemical conversion process through converting biomass to sugar or other intermediate chemicals, fermenting biomass-derived feedstocks, sugars or chemicals, and processing the fermentation product to produce biofuels, biochemical, and bioproducts.

Thermochemical conversion: Emphasis on gasification and fuel and chemical synthesis R&D, pyrolysis R&D, and thermochemical process integration.

Chemical and catalyst science: Core research program on improving biochemical and thermochemical conversion throughout the process, from analyzing feedstocks to improving the yield of desired end products.

Integrated biorefinery processes: Conduct bench-scale to pilot scale research and development projects to improve unit operations and process integration.

Microalgal biofuels: Research and development in microalgal biofuels for transportation and high value co-products.

Biomass process and sustainability analyses: Includes life cycle assessment, techno-economic analysis, sensitivity analysis, and strategic analyses.

Facilities

NREL provides industry, government, and university researchers with access to state-of-the-art and unique equipment for analyzing a wide spectrum of building energy efficiency technologies and innovations.

NREL biomass research facilities are available for testing feedstocks, processes, and technologies at the laboratory and pilot scales. They include:

  • Algal Biofuels Research Laboratory: This lab focuses on microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology of eukaryotic algae, compositional analysis of algal biomass, conversion of algal biomass to fuels and other products, and technoeconomic analysis of algal biofuel production.
  • Bench-scale Fluid Bed Reactor System: This flexible reactor system can be used to study gasification or pyrolysis of biomass at feedrates of up to 500 g/h. The system employs a 2-inch (diameter) fluid-bed gasification/pyrolysis reactor coupled to a fluid bed catalytic upgrading reactor that features continuous addition and withdrawal of catalyst.
  • Biomass Catalyst Characterization Laboratory: This lab is focuses on comprehensive characterization of catalyst materials and performance testing.
  • <Biomass Compositional Analysis Lab: The lab produces comprehensive biomass analysis results, can develop customized analytical methods for new sample types and provides training on biomass compositional analysis procedures.
  • Biomass Surface Characterization Laboratory: A facility dedicated to advanced characterization of biomass substrates.
  • Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis Pilot Plant: This state-of-the-art facility provides capabilities to study ex-situ catalytic fast pyrolysis at biomass feedrates of up to 5 kg/h. The heart of the system is a Davison Recirculating Riser system that contacts catalyst with biomass pyrolysis vapors and allows for regeneration and recirculation of catalyst.
  • Fuels Synthesis Catalysis Laboratory: This laboratory features advanced capabilities for bench-scale catalyst testing. Six reactor bays are each interfaced with an advanced control system for full automation and provides for connections to 16 gases including in-house-made custom mixtures and interface with bench scale gasification equipment for testing of authentic biomass-derived syngas. Reactors may be fed with gases, liquids, and volatile solids and operate at temperatures up to 1200 °C and pressures up to 14 MPa. Reaction systems interface with two advanced process chromatographs, allowing quantification of products to the ppm level, including identification of unknowns via mass spectrometry. All systems are designed for operation up to 24 hours per day, 7 days per week for catalyst stability and lifetime testing for periods up to several thousand hours.
  • Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility: This facility enables researchers and industry partners to develop, test, evaluate, and demonstrate processes for the production of bio-based products and fuels.
  • Magnetic Resonance Facility: This facility provides liquid and solid-state analysis capability for a variety of biomass, photovoltaic, and materials characterization applications.
  • Thermochemical Pilot and Users Facility: This facility offers partners the capability to test new processes and feedstocks in a timely and cost-effective manner while quickly and safely obtaining extensive performance data on their processes or equipment.
  • Microreactor Laboratory: This laboratory provides the capability to do research for thermochemical conversion of biomass and upgrading at the microscale conditions in either batch or entrained-flow reactors. Experiments are carried out on biomass gasification or pyrolysis using very small feedstock samples – a few grams – and using very small amounts of catalyst. This capability is ideal for screening the impact of catalyst composition and process conditions on yields and product composition. The microreactors typically use a molecular beam mass spectrometer for on-line product speciation in real time. Some systems feature high throughput capability for rapid screening of catalyst activity.

For more information, contact:

sbvpilot@nrel.gov (SBV Process Questions)