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Scale-up and Demonstration of a Mobile Pyrolysis Kiln and Other Activities of the Utah Biomass Resources Group

Darren McAvoy
Utah State University Extension
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Abstract: 

The Utah Biomass Resources Group (UBRG) received a SUN Grant from the US Department of Transportation for the scale-up and demonstration of a mobile pyrolysis kiln suited to processing woody biomass into biochar, bio-oil and syngas. The UBRG partnered with Amaron Energy of Salt Lake City to scale up their existing technology to build a 24-inch diameter Rotary Pyrolysis Kiln that is capable of processing up to 20 tons of biomass per-day in the field. The UBRG and Amaron have demonstrated this technology in Utah, Nevada, Washington, and Colorado in cooperation with local, state, and federal partners. We are also conducting case studies on amending Utah soils with biochar in applications to commercial vegetable farms on the Wasatch Front and on oil and gas drilling pads being reclaimed in the Uinta Basin. Although we have successfully pyrolyzed 18 different feedstocks with the Amaron kiln, pinyon and juniper (PJ) feedstock is our focus. PJ woodlands cover nearly 50 million acres of the western United States; by some estimates this is ten times the number of acres it covered at European settlement. Furthermore, the density of existing PJ woodlands are expected to triple in the coming decades. The Bureau of Land Management is treating 40,000 acres of PJ annually in Utah alone, at a cost of several hundred dollars per acre. With an average of only six tons per acre, this is a diffuse resource. There is no commercial value for the oddly shaped pieces of wood, and with the annual threat of extreme wildfire this problem must be addressed on an economic as well as environmental basis. This presentation will highlight the efforts of the UBRG to create a commercialization pathway for what is currently a waste product.

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