Overview of the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium: Enabling Production of Biofuels and Bioproducts through Catalysis Webinar – Video Text Version
This is the text version for the Overview of the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium: Enabling Production of Biofuels and Bioproducts through Catalysis webinar.
>>Moderator: Hello everyone and welcome to today's webinar Overview of the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium: Enabling Production of Biofuels and Bioproducts through Catalysis. Our speaker today is Josh Schaidle. Before we get started I'd like to go over a few items so you know how to participate into today's event. You're listening in using your computer's speaker system by default. If you prefer to join over the phone just select telephone in the audio pane of your control panel and the dial-in information will be displayed.
You will have the opportunity to submit text questions to today's presenters by typing your questions into the question pane of the control panel. You may send in your questions at any time during the presentation. We will collect these and address them during the Q&A session at the end of today's presentation. We will be recording today's webinar and you'll receive a follow up email within a few weeks with a link to view the recording and presentation. Now I'll turn it over to Josh.
>>Josh Schaidle: Great, thank you. Good morning and good afternoon. Thank you all for taking the time out of your day to join in our webinar. My name is Josh Schaidle. I'm one of the co-directors of the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium along with Rick Elander and Corinne Drennan. And on behalf of our entire team I'd like to take this opportunity to give you an overview of our consortium and how we are working towards enabling the production of biofuels and bioproducts through catalysis.
Recent studies out of the Department of Energy have shown that there is a potential to produce over one billion tons of biomass per year in the United States at a sustainable level that's harvested and is a domestic resource that we can then utilize to produce fuels, to produce chemicals. And when you look at the numbers shown here on this diagram there is a potential for making 50 billion gallons of fuel. That could supplement 25 percent of our current transportation fuel usage.
Additionally, you can make on the order of 50 billion pounds of chemicals, many of which are currently produced from petroleum. And of course more broadly if you look at the overall economic impact there is on the order of a million direct jobs that could be produced and more than $260 billion dollars that could maintain and grow rural economies and economies across the United States by utilizing this domestic resource. And what's really important here is to look at and to think about—this is an opportunity, but we have to be able to turn this opportunity into a reality.
And what that requires is enabling us to convert this biomass into those fuels and chemicals. And when you look across the variety of different conversion routes that exist, whether that be through thermochemical conversion or biological conversion or hybrid routes from going from biomass to fuels and chemicals, there is often a catalytic—heterogeneous catalytic step that occurs within these processes. And so that step is obviously critical to the overall conversion process. But what's more is that biomass presents unique challenges. You have to deal with the high oxygen content which results in a number of new addition reaction pathways that we're not typically used to dealing with with hydrocarbon chemistry. You have multiple diverse functionalities within the biomass, which causes many competing reactions. You have difficulty with side reactions and byproducts and controlled selectivity. There’s also high water content, high impurities content. And that causes massive issues for maintaining catalyst longevity in lifetime and understanding how to regenerate catalyst after deactivation.
And of course from a more fundamental perspective when you're looking at the complexity and the heterogeneity of biomass that makes it very difficult to model those types of systems and fully understand what's going on from fundamental levels so that we can further define and improve the process in the future. And I've listed on the right side of the screen a number of different catalytic processes related to converting biomass into fuels and chemicals. These range from synthesis gas upgrading to catalytic fast pyrolysis to upgrading biological intermediates.
And all of these have key catalytic steps that have specific challenges related to those steps that need to be overcome in order to make this opportunity of a billion tons of biomass in the next 10 to 15 years a reality into actually producing fuels and chemicals. And what's more is when you look at these challenges across the catalysis space, from an economic perspective, the catalyst costs can actually represent up to 10 percent of the selling price of biofuel based on our techno-economic analysis. That's a pretty substantial impact on the overall production of the fuel.
So to address these needs in catalysis we've started the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium or ChemCatBio. This is a National Lab-led R&D consortium dedicated to identifying and overcoming catalysis challenges for biomass conversion processes. And our mission specifically is to accelerate the development of catalysts and related technologies—the surrounding process in technologies that go along with the catalysts in order to enhance commercialization of biomass-derived fuels and chemicals. And we're doing that specifically by leveraging unique U.S. Department of Energy National Lab capabilities across the United States and across seven different National Labs.
And our team is composed of over 100 researchers from these National Labs. And over the last two years we've published 84 peer-reviewed manuscripts. So we have a substantial stake in not only moving the field forward but also taking our knowledge and translating that and communicating that and disseminating that out into the broader public. And I mention these unique DOE National Lab capabilities. Within our consortium we have capabilities around advanced synthesis and characterization, modeling and interactive tools, and multiscale evaluation.
And for today's presentation instead of just stepping through each of our capabilities and giving you a high-level description of each of these capabilities I thought it might make more sense to first just describe the type of approach that we take as a consortium and then give you specific examples of how we've used these capabilities to answer and overcome specific catalysis challenges. So from an approach perspective the way we are seeking to overcome these challenges is to establish an integrated and collaborative portfolio of catalytic technologies and enabling capabilities.
And all of this starts with of course performance evaluation. We need to understand the yield, selectivity, rates, productivity of these catalysts under a given reaction condition. And then we link that with foundational science efforts where we have control over the synthesis. We do advanced in operando, in situ characterization of catalysis surface under reaction conditions. And we link all that with computational modeling to understand the active site and the mechanism of the reaction.
And by combining all of these together we can develop structure-function relationships and develop this foundational understanding, which then allows us to translate that for biomass conversation processes through an applied engineering approach where we can scale up catalyst production, understand the cost of producing catalysts at bulk scale from materials that we're developing in the lab, and then ultimately look at integrated testing for systems that allow us to go all the way from biomass into our finished fuel and chemical production and take the catalysts and evaluate them in those integrated systems.
And so as a whole—as a consortium—we are really making an effort to link between foundational science and applied engineering. And a critical piece of that of course is interacting with the broader community, both academia and industry, to help us form this bridge and to link and take technologies from the lab scale at the foundational science level and really help them move towards the market and accelerate their commercialization. And so what I'd like to do is take a few examples here and walk through how we've addressed specific catalysis challenges, levering this approach shown here.
So the first example—if you look from a syngas upgrading space there's a market opportunity right now for an increasing demand for premium gasoline in the United States. A recent report by OPIS shows that over the last five to six years there's been a steady increase in the market share of premium gasoline. And it's projected that this is going to increase quite significantly over the next 5 to 10 years. And so there's an opportunity from a technology perspective to produce high octane synthetic alkylate blendstock from biomass-derived dimethyl ether.
You can produce methanol and dimethyl ether from synthesis gas. These are known technologies. And then you can take this dimethyl ether and convert it over large pore acidic zeolites like H-beta at moderate temperatures and pressures and produce a mixture of branched C4 to C8 hydrocarbons. And because of the branching these hydrocarbons have a high octane value. As an example shown there—the one molecule called triptane—has a research octane number of 112. So that's pretty substantial. And the overall mixture can potentially be in the range of 95 to 100 from these fuel products.
However one of the challenges here is that if you look at the product distribution you produce a high amount of C4. A large amount of your carbon is going to isobutane specifically. That's not a great fuel molecule, especially if you're trying to increase octane. And in addition it's a high volatility, so you can't blend in that much of it into the finished fuel. So the challenge here is to design a catalyst that enables you to take that light ends—the C1 through C4—and reincorporate those back into the pathway and back into the chain growth so that you can direct more of your product towards the C5+ high octane product.
And we've been looking at trying to address this challenge through modification of the parent H-beta zeolite with different metals. And specifically one of the materials that we've been focusing on is copper modification. And so I'd like to highlight how we've used our approach that I talked about before to advance the catalysis in this space. And the first part comes from a foundational science perspective understanding the active site for this reaction. In this case we've used in operando x-ray absorption spectroscopy to identify copper(I) as the species on the surface that's able to activate isobutane through a dehydrogenation route.
Secondly, once we understand the active site and have identified that then we can then start to understand reaction mechanisms. Through computational modeling of the copper(I) site inside a beta zeolite pore we've been able to calculate the energetics for this pathway—this two-step mechanism—and understand further how to develop and improve this catalyst. And of course all of this links back to performance evaluation. We've demonstrated with DME co-fed with a labeled isobutane stream that only with this copper modification—specifically with this copper(I) species are you able to reincorporate that C4 isobutane back into the chamber of pathway and produce C5, C6, and C7. That's demonstrated with the carbon 13 labeling for that C5 or C6 product.
So overall from an outcomes perspective, on a broad engineering case we've been able to reduce the modeled fuel production cost by over $1.00 a gallon in the last two years. That's quite substantial for this pathway. From a more foundational science perspective, we've been able to identify—by understanding the active site in the mechanism—been able to identify bimetallic formulations that we believe can help further improve performance for this pathway.
Another example is looking at ethanol. Currently in the United States we're seeing an uptick in overall ethanol production. This is shown here from this report from the EIA. But we're limited to some extent by the amount of ethanol we can blend into fuels, due to existing blend walls and regulations in vehicle and automotive manufacturer engine specifications. So it's an opportunity to help existing biorefineries and those coming online to diversify their products by taking that ethanol into other infrastructure compatible fuels and chemicals.
And so one opportunity that we've been exploring is taking ethanol or other mixed oxygenates or mixed alcohols—even acid containing species—and converting those into ultimately diesel and jet fuel products, but going through high value large market coproducts such as C4, olefins, and diolefins as well as benzene, toluene, and xylene. So this gives you this product diversification. The challenge here is that when you start with these light oxygenates like ethanol and other mixed alcohols there's a real challenge in trying to control selectivity with these materials.
And so what we've been looking at doing in this space is to balance acid base and metallic sites on the surface and trying to control how they exist at a molecular level and a molecular distance on the surface so we can design materials to do cascade catalysis and target those specific products we want. And so in this area again taking a foundational approach we've been able to understand that the active site—looking at metal modified ZSM-5 as a starting point—we've been able to identify isolated gallium 3 plus cations and show that they're directly responsible for the production of benzene, toluene, and xylene from ethanol.
Further we can translate this and begin to understand the reaction mechanism and where the gallium actually plays a role in adjusting the energetics of the different steps. And the two areas where the gallium we've identified thus far promotes the reaction is through hydrogen desorption and through promoting dehydrocyclization. And ultimately when you put this together again and move towards a performance evaluation you'll notice that we're able to significantly increase above 400 degrees C, significantly increased the production of benzene, toluene, and xylene compared to the parent HZSM5 just through this gallium modification. So again in these integrated systems starting with ethanol as a starting feedstream we're able to produce these high value products.
So from a high level outcomes perspective we've demonstrated a catalyst through gallium modification that can double the BTX yield compared to HZSM5. And our understanding of how the gallium site behaves within the zeolite and affects the chemistry now gives us greater insight into how to further develop improved catalyst formulations.
Additionally, looking at ethanol we can also convert to other products including C4s and fuels. And so specifically looking through Guerbet type chemistry you can go through different reaction networks and track fairly complex through acetaldehyde and crotonaldehyde before you go and produce butadiene. And we can track that as a function of the actual catalyst formulation and develop structure function relationships based on the surface properties and the site density on the catalyst surface.
So an example shown here is where we've demonstrated that the Lewis acid site density is directly related to the overall butadiene selectivity. And finally then as a performance evaluation through copper-modified mixed oxide-supported catalysts we can convert ethanol to C4 alcohols with about 90 percent selectivity and a demonstrated stability for over 200 hours of time on stream.
So as a whole, from the outcomes perspective this is a—system here for the ethanol to butadiene catalyst that's currently going through the patenting process but is demonstrated a 70 percent yield of butadiene—a high value chemical and precursor—well above whatever's been demonstrated previously. As well as looking at the ethanol to C4+ alcohol through Guerbet coupling has demonstrated high selectivity to these higher value alcohols.
The next example looks at taking a broader perspective at the overall opportunity associated with the advanced biofuel market. I'm showing here the renewable fuel standard mandates and targets going out to 2022. And if you look at just the advanced biofuel market size it's something on the order of $7 billion to $15 billion dollars a year. However, making an advanced biofuel is quite challenging especially when you're talking about the cost-competitive level with existing petroleum prices today.
And so one of the ways to do that and try to address and make advanced biofuels is to look at technologies that can take the whole biomass and convert them into fuels—fuel blendstocks. And so one example as a technology in this area is catalytic fast pyrolysis where you can take in woody-based biomass feedstocks, convert them through fast pyrolysis where you heat them up—very short contact time. No oxygen, no steam co-feed and you make a vapor stream that has about 300 to 400 different oxygenated compounds.
And then you can upgrade that in the vapor phase with a catalyst, condense the bio-oil
and hydrotreat it and actually produce a blendstock for both gasoline as well as for
diesel. And so it gives us an access into this advanced biofuel market; however, as
folks who have worked on catalytic fast pyrolysis are aware this is an extremely challenging
environment for a catalyst with the temperatures, the number of products, the number
of reactions that can occur. And so you end up with typically high levels of deactivation
due to carbon deposition.
And so what we've been trying to do is find ways to improve the carbon yield and extend catalyst lifetime for these systems. And one of the ways we've looked at doing that is moving away from a lot of what's done in literature and asking the questions, can we do this in a fixed bed reactor? Can we do this at near atmospheric pressure, and with co-fed hydrogen and utilize non-zeolite catalysts to help us move towards higher carbon units?
And so our work in this space has been again starting from the foundational perspective. Looking at the surface chemistry, and trying to link the relationship between acid sites and metallic sites on the surface of these catalysts, and how those sites then link to the performance for catalytic fast pyrolysis. This is taking a variety of both modeling and advanced characterization to begin to understand the role of these sites and the identity of these sites on these different materials such as examples shown as platinum supported on titania or molybdenum carbide.
And key to trying to reduce catalyst—trying to reduce the amount of coat deposition and also trying to extend catalyst lifetime is first understanding the deactivation mechanism. And so using a variety of in situ spectroscopy methods including raw mass spectrometry we've been able to identify the types of species on the surface that are resulting in deactivation. And through this understanding we've moved towards an integrated system going from biomass all the way to finished product. We've then been able to demonstrate that these materials—the molycarbide and platinum titania as starting examples.
Starting materials that we are exploring show improved carbon yield compared to HZSM5 as a standard material. And in addition—in the bottom right—we've been able to show that we can operate these catalysts up to—an example shown there is 12 or 13 days. We've actually taken it out to 24 or 25 days with consistent performance, high yields and low oxygen content in the finished CFP oil.
And so from an outcomes perspective we've been able to reduce the modeled fuel production costs by $.85 per gallon since 2016. That incorporates all these learnings and takes the applied engineering through these integrated systems to demonstrate those improvements—coupled with techno-economic analysis. From a foundational science perspective we're learning a lot more about tuning the metal acid bi-functionality on these catalyst surfaces to enhance deoxygenation.
Our last example looks at producing biomass-derived oxygenates as platform chemicals. A recent report that's come out of the National Lab system with the diagram shown here looks at a variety of different chemicals that can be produced from biomass, plots them as a function of their price, as well as the global consumption–global demand for these chemicals. And so there are a variety of opportunities. And one of these includes succinic acid. And so there's a technology opportunity here to couple—again use a hybrid approach—to take a biological upstream and couple that with a catalytic downstream that allows us to go through a succinic acid intermediate and then produce 1,4-butanediol.
Now if you note and look at these process conditions you're dealing with moderate temperatures, high pressures of hydrogen in acidic aqueous media—so fairly corrosive conditions. And you also notice based on the reaction pathways shown there, you have a number of side products that are accessible that aren't really desirable compared to the 1,4-butanediol. So the challenge here is to enhance catalyst selectivity to our targeted 1,4-butanediol while at the same time designing catalysts that can be stable under these acidic corrosive aqueous conditions.
And what we've been pursuing in this area is to look at bimetallic formulations to enhance this stability and selectivity. And one of the key pieces of this is to understand how metals on the surface co-locate and interact. And so looking at one of the materials we've been starting with, which is a ruthenium tin bimetallic catalyst, we've used high resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy to understand the co-location of that ruthenium and tin on the surface.
And a critical piece of this is again the stability. And so now that we understand the way in which these metals are interacting on the surface we can computationally model the stability of these materials. And so we're showing here a couple of different metals: ruthenium, nickel, and platinum that also have tin incorporated and can access the relative energetics and stability of those materials under these conditions. So that gives us a computational predictive capability for designing new materials.
And ultimately when you link all of these together on an integrated system we've shown that with corn stover-derived succinic acid we can convert that to 1,4-butandiol using a flow system for over 100 hours' time on stream at high yields to the 1,4-butandiol targeted product. So we've identified this bimetallic formulation that has this high yield. But more importantly we now have models and systems to understand and predict stability of these catalysts, which can allow us to further improve this process.
So now that I've stepped through a variety of different technology areas and shown you how we've linked together all these different capabilities to answer specific catalysis challenges and catalysis questions I wanted to take a step back and make a point that as a consortium we're also trying to broadly address and develop tools that can enable others to accelerate catalyst development and accelerate process development succinctly in the same time. And one of those types of tools that we've been working on is a catalyst cost estimation tool.
So what this is looking at doing is taking pre-commercial materials, materials you're making in the lab at only the milligram/gram quantities and asking the question: how much would it cost to actually produce that catalyst at a bulk scale using the synthetic methods currently being pursued? And so it gives you this opportunity to compare a variety of different catalysts based on their cost at bulk scale even if you're only still working on them at the lab scale.
And what's more important is it gives you guidance and helps you understand what research areas make sense and what changes you can make to your synthetic methods in order to reduce the overall cost of the process in the future. And when you're looking from a commercialization perspective this really helps with doing a sensitivity and a risk analysis around the catalyst and the new material if you're considering you have a plant that you're considering shifting to a new catalyst type. What are all the risks associated with that and the costs associated with that catalyst material?
And so fundamentally all this rolls into being able to access the value proposition of a catalyst and of new development catalysts at an early stage in their R&D. And so this tool has been under development for the last few years. And we plan to release this in the middle of 2018 as a downloadable spreadsheet as well as a companion web app. It's going to be completely free and publicly downloadable and available on our website.
So to dive into this just a little bit more when you're looking at the cost of production at bulk scale, you're looking at raw materials, and you're looking at the overall OPEX required to produce that material. So the raw materials going into this we've developed a very broad database with materials pricing and have utilized industry standard scaling relationships to allow us to go from the gram scale and take the stoichiometry of your synthetic methods at the lab scale and convert those into what that would look like at a millions of tons of scale per year.
Secondly, from the OPEX perspective we can take the laboratory steps that you used to make your catalyst: drying, impregnation, pretreatment, additional steps that you pursue, and we've translated those into parameterized scale-up templates. So it allows you to take—without a lot of knowledge per se of the actual production methods existing at scale—take what you're doing at the lab scale and translate that into something that gives you a meaningful overall cost estimate. And so when you combine these two pieces together you have rapid and accurate early-stage catalyst cost estimation.
And so ultimately that leads into being able to define the value proposition of a new catalyst. And instead of just comparing catalysts on rates, selectivity, yield, lifetime you now can normalize those by the production cost and you can use that as additional design criteria at an early stage of catalyst development. And overall from this—the technical session that I wanted to present today—what I wanted to talk about at the end here is outreach and engaging, how you can engage with the consortium and the opportunities and areas in which we're currently working.
What's really important to us as a team—the 100 researchers within this consortium—is we want to provide shared value to the catalysis and the bioenergy community. In order for us to do that we really need feedback from folks on the line about how to best leverage our team and our capabilities to create the most value for you. We've been pursuing this effort through a variety of different routes over the last year. This includes holding a stakeholder listening day back in June in Denver, which was actually in conjunction with the North American Catalysis Society meeting.
We got together folks from academia and industry and asked the question: what is the right value proposition for our consortium? How do we create value for the broader community? We've hosted a booth at tcbiomass recently in Chicago in September as well as a few other conferences. And we've hosted and visited interested partners to discuss collaboration opportunities and get their take on where are the biggest needs for this type of consortium? And how can we address that?
And so to that end there are numerous mechanisms to work with ChemCatBio. Some of them are established. Some of them we're continuing to work on. These include things like scientist or engineer exchange programs, looking at postdoc sponsorship opportunities, typical agreements with labs where you're looking at cooperative research agreements work for others, as well as a number of funding opportunities, whether those be directed funding opportunities that come through the consortium or just broader funding opportunity announcements through the Department of Energy.
And one thing I want to highlight here is that as a consortium across all of these labs we've established a single NDA and CRADA agreement that's been pre-agreed to across all of these labs. And the goal of that is to make it easier for entities outside the National Labs to engage with us and to make that a quicker process to get projects started. And so as I said here we would greatly appreciate any thoughts you have in this area. Hopefully you can share them on this webinar through posting questions or comments.
But also just we have a single point of contact. One email goes directly to our board of directors shown here—firstname.lastname@example.org—to learn more about these opportunities to work with us. And specifically I want to highlight a couple of unique opportunities in this area one of which we recently just concluded, which was a directed funding assistance proposal opportunity. And we awarded $4.3 million dollars in directed funding assistance for industry to leverage our capabilities to help overcome catalysis challenges that they're facing. The project selected—there were nine of them across eight different energy partners.
And the industry partners fall across the entire value chain when you're looking from feedstock all the way to fuel production. This varies from well-known biofuel producers like Gevo and LanzaTech to folks looking to trying to do CO2 valorization like Opus 12 to catalyst manufacturers like Johnson Matthey. Secondly, in regards to engagement with the consortium we are seeking members for our industry advisory board. We're currently in the process of establishing that board.
And their goal and their role is to help us guide the consortium towards industry-relevant R&D. Help us identify knowledge gaps that exist out there and ones that we specifically are uniquely suited to address. And give us just a broader business perspective and a market perspective on some of our activities. And so again if you're interested please reach out to us. We are really trying to build a strong board this year. And that's going to be a key piece to making sure that we hold true to our mission to finding ways to accelerate catalysts in process development.
Lastly we also have a symposium that we're hosting at the upcoming ACS National Meeting in New Orleans in March. This is as part of the division of Catalysis Science & Technology. And so if you're interested reach out to us by email or just visit us. It's posted on the ACS website. You can log in and find information about the symposium and who's speaking here in March. And so you can learn a lot more in-depth information about our consortium. It's probably going to last over two days and have on the order of 20 to 25 presentations from PIs and co-PIs within this organization.
So one of the key things to highlight is that we're hoping that this becomes a webinar series, and this is the first of many in this series. We're hoping to hold one webinar per quarter. And these are going to discuss topics ranging from specific biomass conversion technologies through overarching catalysis challenges as well as dive deeper into some of these tools that we're developing to help aid in catalyst development acceleration.
And so to give you a highlight of these: coming up in the beginning of 2018 we'll look specifically at the technology I talked about—about producing high octane gasoline blendstocks. And how we link catalyst and process development along with techno-economic analysis. Towards the middle of 2018 we're going to look more broadly at how we as a consortium try to bring together computational modeling, tailored materials synthesis, in situ and in operando capabilities across the consortium to help accelerate this development cycle.
And then also in 2018 a little bit later in the year once we've released that catalyst cost model tool we'd like to offer a tutorial to folks to learn how to use that tool in their research and in their development of new catalyst materials. And so that will be later in the year in 2018. So just to give you an idea of the types of topic areas we're going to be focusing on over the next year. Lastly, I just want to acknowledge that this is a huge team effort; as I said over 100 researchers across 7 National Labs. I'm lucky enough and honored to give a chance to speak on this and talk about our activities.
But really all the credit goes to the teams across these National Labs that are making these developments and these advancements happen. And specifically if you want to reach out with us, if something caught your eye and you'd like to talk to us more, you can check out our website as well as just email us directly at email@example.com. Lastly I do want to put out a huge thank you to the Bioenergy Technologies Office within the U.S. Department of Energy.
They support this consortium. They realize the need for addressing catalysis challenges to greater enable commercialization of biofuels and bioproducts. And we would not be able to be in this position and be able to work together as a group and as a team across the National Lab complex to address these challenges without our support from the Bioenergy Technologies Office. So we greatly thank them for their support. And that is all I have for today. I'm happy to answer any questions that come in through the webinar. Thank you very much.
>>Moderator: Okay. Thanks Josh. We do have a few questions and comments at this time. And remember folks if you do have a question just go ahead and type that into the question pane. We'll get to as many of those as we can in the time that we have left. So Josh our first question came a little earlier in the webinar and it's asking are you using Aspen as your modeling tool?
>>Josh Schaidle: Yes so we have—across the National Lab system there are a number of groups that specialize in techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment. And much of the TEA work is done in detailed Aspen-based models that start all the way from the feedstock and go all the way through the finished product. These are heat integrated systems where they've gone and done due diligence in these reports, where they've sent out reports to industry to get feedback on the assumptions made, on the cost estimates for materials, cost estimates for reactors and sizing of reactors. So these are heavily vetted by industry and are solely and heavily based on Aspen, yes.
>>Moderator: Our next is more of a comment. It says: you mention interested in a fixed bed reactor. FYI, Sierra Energy is turning on its FastOx gasification system with oxygen and steam injection this month which will convert biomass and MSW into syngas, then to electricity and FT-liquids. I'd be pleased to connect regarding this system if there is interest in that. It's from Paul Gruber.
>>Josh Schaidle: Good. Yeah that would be great. We'd be happy to talk more. If you can shoot us an email at the site there I'll be happy to coordinate and talk with your more about integration.
>>Moderator: Okay next we have another question. It starts off: excellent presentation. Can you talk about a typical screening cycle? How long does it take to assess a new catalyst from idea to bench scale evaluation? Also are you actively developing computational methods or using commercial software packages?
>>Josh Schaidle: That's a dynamic question. I appreciate that. Yeah so I guess it's hard to give a concrete answer on how quickly we can translate from a starting point to bench-scaled systems. And it depends on a couple of types of things. We have a broad—the first answer is I'll say is we have a pretty broad range of catalyst materials that we've worked on. These things range from phosphides, carbides, supported metals on oxides, just mixed metal oxides, zeolites, metal modified zeolites. So it's a fairly large breadth of materials. We have a broad amount of experience working with a lot of material types.
And so I would say if it was something that came in our door that fell within one of those areas it's pretty quick for us to make materials on that scale. And if it's for a process that we're currently working on—so let's say you had a catalyst for catalytic fast pyrolysis. We have the units in place, the systems in place, ready to run those types of materials right now. And so that's an easy integration. If it's a new approach, a new pathway—something we hadn't been looking at—then there would be some time required to integrate and change our systems around to meet the needs of that specific pathway.
But that's definitely within our wheelhouse. And so right now oftentimes you know we're looking at going through our advanced catalysts synthesis and characterization group of which we—I can think of a few different catalyst materials with advanced synthetic methods and can produce those and get them into a system on the order of three to six months. When you're talking about very advanced catalyst design and synthesis using colloidal based techniques, solution phase techniques to design morphology control and facet control types of catalyst materials you know that takes three months or a six-month period to get those made and then into systems.
And then the second piece of the question you asked about computational modeling. Yes we do a little of both. We have a—within our organization we have a whole focus and a whole team across five different National Labs that focuses on computational modeling. This is called the Consortium for Computational Physics and Chemistry. And they not only leverage industrial tools and tools that are on the market for doing computational modeling—using systems, we're talking about surface modeling—things like DFT and Gaussian type of and vast top models as well as things doing more like COMSOL and reactor modeling and computational fluid dynamics and leveraging things like MFiX and others that are out there and exist today. And so yes, we're looking across both of those levels as well as developing some of our own internally types of tools that we are hoping to then translate out into the market. Jim, I think you're on. Did you want to add anything on that?
Okay, it sounds like I covered most of it. Hopefully that answered your question.
>>Moderator: Thanks. So our next question says: can you share some of what you've learned from your outreach program so far?
>>Josh Schaidle: Yeah, that's a great question. So, we've gotten a lot of feedback. There have been a couple pieces of that. One has been more for our consortium focusing on outreach and building awareness. I think folks have interest in engaging with us but just don't know as a whole what are our capabilities? What is our team? What are we working on? And they want to know more about us so that they can better understand how to integrate and collaborate with us to move their technologies forward.
And so one piece of feedback from this has been more on the side of engagement and outreach and building awareness as a consortium. And so this webinar is an example of how we've responded to that feedback. Other more specific things related to technology and actually addressing catalysis challenges—a few things have come up. Major ones have come up. Dealing with and focusing on catalysis deactivation due to impurities that exist in biomass streams at integrated scales. Working with real biomass feeds at an integrated scale and trying to understand and probe deactivation mechanisms due to these impurities.
That's been a big piece of feedback that we've gotten from outreach. Another one more on our approach has been, there needs to be more emphasis at this intermediate R&D level where you're going from very fundamental lab-scale type work and moving into—all the way up to applied engineering and looking to how you're going to commercialize this. There is often—you know people hear about the value of depth as you scale up. There is often this same value that exists between very fundamental work looking at model compounds and then how you integrate that with true integrated systems in biomass.
And so we're trying to focus our efforts in that valley, in that space, to link those together. And on top of that what's come out of that is the need of course to integrate with both academics and industry across that whole system because that's really the only way as a team and as a group—and together—are we going to actually be able to overcome and address some of those issues in an intermediate scale.
>>Moderator: Okay. Our next question says: any new computational modeling insights into the Guerbet reaction?
>>Josh Schaidle: Say that again?
>>Moderator: G-U –
>>Moderator: Oh okay. [Laughs]
>>Moderator: Yeah, I think there are a few folks on who might be able to answer that better than me. I'll see if they're able to take that. Dan or Rob or Carl or one of you guys? Would you be interested in taking a stab at that?
Are they unmuted? It doesn't sound like that's coming out. Okay so I'm not sure, it sounds like maybe we're not quite getting people to be able to come through on the microphone—on the speaker. So I'll go ahead and take a stab at that.
On the Guerbet coupling side, we are looking and starting—that's work based out of PNNL that they are starting to look at modeling, computational modeling, around those questions for that specific system, their catalyst system—and they will be putting out a publication on that within the next I would say, hopefully the next few months, of work that they've done that's kind of going through—they have one that's I think in review process and another one that's soon to come out based on they were kind of waiting for some of the patent application work to go in. So there should be a publication coming out soon in that area.
And hopefully if that's not a sufficient answer feel free to email and I'm happy to direct you directly to the folks at PNNL to be able to give you more information.
>>Moderator: Okay. Our next question says: you mentioned challenge with contaminants that are potent catalyst poisons. What work is the consortium doing with regards to removal of these contaminants before catalytic processing of bio-oils or syngas from biomass?
>>Josh Schaidle: Yeah that's a great question. I would say as an example to kind of give you a feel for this, one of the areas that we jointly work on with another consortium underneath the Bioenergy Technologies Office is actually looking at hot gas filtration and catalytic hot gas filtration of pyrolysis vapor streams. So you come out of the pyrolysis unit, you have this complex stream that potentially still has maybe a little bit of char in it. You maybe have some lignin oligomers, longer larger products that are kind of dumped together.
And then you have you know species that may contain sulfur and other things. We've been looking at ways to, before going to the actual catalyst bed, looking at can we filter out some of those bad actors ahead of time? Can we go through this filter system, and not only can you use a filter, but can you also modify it with catalyst functionality that's going to enhance the removal of those specific bad actors before it hits the catalyst? And so that's an area that's actively ongoing in work right now.
There's nothing been published on that as of yet. That's a new—kind of a new effort for us over the last year. But that's one example of how we are trying to address removal of those intermediates before you actually get to the catalyst bed.
>>Moderator: Okay, our next question is the last one that's been put in so far. So just a reminder to everyone if you do have any more questions go ahead and submit those now. So that last question is just: please repeat the name of the company with the fixed bed technology for biomass to syngas.
>>Josh Schaidle: That was from the previous question I think. I don't think I had mentioned anybody with a fixed be –
>>Moderator: Oh, Sierra Energy.
>>Josh Schaidle: Yeah Sierra Energy.
>>Moderator: It just came in.
>>Josh Schaidle: So I guess that was from a previous comment. That was the organization—the company—they were talking about.
>>Josh Schaidle: So maybe I'll hang out for a minute and if anybody has any last questions go ahead and enter them right now. And if nothing comes up for the next little bit we'll go ahead and end the webinar.
>>Moderator: Okay. In one of your answers you talked about LCA. Are you including life cycle analysis of these catalysts in these pathways?
>>Josh Schaidle: Yes we are. So that's part of the catalyst cost model that we're developing. I focused that much on the catalyst—or on the cost component in this presentation. We're also integrating that tool with the GREET tool that's developed out of Argonne National Lab so that we can do detailed full life cycle analysis around catalysts being developed.
And so that again brings guidance to R&D activities at an early stage of development where you can look at, oh can I use a different precursor? Can I use a different process to make the same catalyst but that results in an overall reduction of say water usage or greenhouse gas emissions or some other parameter that you want to track? And so yes, we are most definitely looking at detailed life cycle analysis around the catalyst materials being developed within this consortium.
And that will ultimately at some point be integrated with the catalyst cost model tool and integrated within GREET.
>>Moderator: Okay another question: are you working on improved catalysis for upgrading the aqueous streams from pyrolysis or biological conversion streams?
>>Josh Schaidle: Yes. So we're looking at—we have a whole effort dedicated to looking at streams derived from biological—streams derived from upgrading, from biological upgrading. And so I gave an example. One of those was looking at succinic acid, which can be produced through anaerobic digestion of biomass. And then taking succinic acid as a platform to say what else can we make? There are multiple examples of that where we're looking at different upstreams that the ethanol work is included in that space.
We're looking at biological upstreams to then catalytic downstream upgrading technologies. And so yeah there's a decent amount of work ongoing in that space. On the aqueous streams derived from pyrolysis and other pathways we had some work in that over the past two years. That's been deemphasized a little bit right now within the consortium efforts. However, through some of these directed funding assistance proposals that have gone through there has been a little more interest in dealing with these aqueous type streams coming out of these systems.
That is still an area of interest and definitely an area of need in terms of the overall economics of a biorefinery often depends upon how much carbon you get into your fuels and valuable products. And so if you're sending carbon out to the wastewater treatment through an aqueous stream that's an overall loss and a cost. And so yes there's a need to try to look at converting that carbon back into fuels and products.
>>Moderator: Okay. Next question is: is there a single site with links to the catalysis-related publications and internal reports?
>>Josh Schaidle: Yes. So if you go to our website—chemcatbio.org—there's a tab at the top that says publications. That has a full list with direct links of all of our 84 publications. And that's updated monthly/quarterly with updates from across all of our National Lab teams contributing to this consortium. That's a great place to visit, to look at recent progress in different areas, and to go get directed to the research articles that we've published. More broadly across some of the reports I would direct you a little bit more towards the Bioenergy Technologies Office.
Many of those reports are housed and linked directly from their website. And so that's an easy way to access some of those higher level reports. But yes all the publications and any book chapters and other things that we've been producing out of this consortium is on our web page on our publications tab.
>>Moderator: Okay. There are no more questions right now. We'll just give it another minute.
>>Josh Schaidle: Okay.
>>Moderator: Okay, thank you Josh and thank you everyone for attending today's webinar: Overview of the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium. Like we said before, you will receive a follow up email within the next couple of weeks with a link to view the recording of today's webinar. Thank you all for joining us today and have a great rest of your day.
>>Josh Schaidle: Yes. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. We will be posting these to the website. Thank you.
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