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Torrefaction and Densification of Switchgrass to Improve Syngas Quality and Transportation Logistics

2012 USDA-NIFA Center Award


Principal Investigators and affiliations:
PI: Dr. Ajay Kumar (Biosystems and Agriculural Engineering, Oklahoma State University)
Co-PI: Dr. Krushna Patil (Oklahoma State University)
Co-PI: Dr. Carol Jones (Oklahoma State University)
Co-PI: Dr. Danielle Bellmer (Oklahoma State University)
Co-PI: Dr. Jaya Tumuluru (Idaho National Laboratory)

Funded: $83,287

Start Date: 1/13/2012

End Date: 8/31/2014


Expected Outcomes

The overall goal is to evaluate the effectiveness of torrefaction and densification in reducing challenges of biomass transportation and storage logistics, and gasification. The specific objectives are to: (i) Investigate effects of primary factors involved in pre-processing (torrefaction and densification) on energy efficiency and product quality in terms of particle size distribution, energy and bulk densities, and O/C and H/C ratios of pre-processed switchgrass, (ii) Investigate effects of pre-processing conditions on feeding mechanism and syngas quality during gasification, and iii) Evaluate effectiveness of pre-processing conditions in reducing requirements of energy and cost, and other problems in transportation and storage logistics.


Project outcomes will significantly affect the economic viability of the biobased industry as it directly addresses one of the biggest challenges by reducing the cost and energy of biomass (switchgrass) transportation issues using torrefaction and densification. The following are the major outcomes of this project:


  1. Evaluation of how the selected pre-processing methods (densification and torrefaction) will reduce feeding problems and improve syngas quality during gasification and b) reduce the logistics problems in terms of energy and cost.
  2. Optimized pre-processing methods for scientific community and decision makers to evaluate their benefits on gasification and other conversion technologies such as pyrolysis for liquid fuel production, and combustion and co-firing for power production.
  3. Available data on physical properties, and ultimate composition of torrefied and densified switchgrass.
  4. Optimized torrefaction conditions for making feedstock suitable for gasification.
  5. Comparison of syngas quality from gasification of switchgrass using four pre-processing scenarios.
  6. Opportunities for students to work at the INL
  7. Models of torrefaction, densification, gasification and logistics analysis with the preprocessing data.
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