LIQUID BIO-FUEL PRODUCTION FROM NON-FOOD BIOMASS VIA HIGH TEMPERATURE STEAM ELECTROLYSIS Page: 3 of 11
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Figure 1. Hydropyrolysis for nuclear powered biomass-to-liquids with supplemental hydrogen from HTSE.
large-scale stand-alone option . Conventional electrolysis
coupled to nuclear base-load power can approach economical
viability when combined with off-peak power, but the capital
cost is high . To achieve higher overall hydrogen production
efficiencies, high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) 
can be used. High-temperature nuclear reactors have the
potential for substantially increasing the efficiency of hydrogen
production from water, with no consumption of fossil fuels, no
production of greenhouse gases, and no other forms of air
Small modular reactors (SMRs) can potentially be used to
power hybrid energy systems that enable production of
synthetic liquid fuels that are compatible with the existing
conventional liquid transportation fuels infrastructure. Using
biomass as a renewable carbon source, and supplemental
hydrogen from high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE),
these systems have the potential to provide a significant
alternative petroleum source that could reduce US dependence
on imported oil. Combining hydrogen from HTSE with CO
from an oxygen-blown biomass gasifier yields syngas to be
used as a feedstock for synthesis of liquid transportation fuels
via a Fischer-Tropsch process. Conversion of syngas to liquid
hydrocarbon fuels, using a biomass-based carbon source,
expands the application of nuclear and renewable energy
beyond the grid to include transportation fuels. It can also
contribute to grid stability associated with non-dispatchable
power generation. The use of supplemental hydrogen from
HTSE enables greater than 95% utilization of the biomass
carbon content which is about 2.5 times higher than carbon
utilization associated with traditional cellulosic ethanol
production. If the electrical power source needed for HTSE is
based on nuclear or renewable energy, the process is carbon
neutral. INL has demonstrated improved biomass processing
prior to gasification . Recyclable biomass in the form of
crop residue or energy crops would serve as the feedstock for
The safety aspect of the proposed process is too much to
discuss in this paper. A typical nuclear power plant costs
between $2-4 billion per GW of electrical power. Revenue
would not be generated for a long period of time.
Hydropyrolysis: A schematic of a hydropyrolysis process
is provided in Fig. 1. The process is directly coupled to a small
modular reactor for both process heat and power. The process
heat demands are depicted in the schematic. This
hydropyrolysis process injects high temperature hydrogen into
the pyrolyzer with a fluidized bed catalyst that reacts with the
biomass. The hydrogen upgrades the bio-oil that forms in the
pyrolyzer. The additional hydrogen reacts with the oxygen in
the biomass and forms water, thus allowing the remaining
biomass with the basic chemical formula of CH2 to form a nice
synthetic fuel. Char is produced in the hydropyrolysis process
and is taken out after the pyrolyzer and is a valuable
commodity, especially if carbon credits are available.
Additional treatment of the fuel occurs in the hydro conversion
unit where another catalyst removes the remaining oxygen.
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Hawkes, G. L.; O'Brien, J. E. & McKellar, M. G. LIQUID BIO-FUEL PRODUCTION FROM NON-FOOD BIOMASS VIA HIGH TEMPERATURE STEAM ELECTROLYSIS, article, November 1, 2011; Idaho Falls, Idaho. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc845769/m1/3/: accessed April 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.