Pinyon Juniper Utilization | Utah Biomass Resources USU

    Pinyon Juniper Utilization

    Distributed Densification of Pinyon Juniper utilizingmobile rapid pyrolysis equipment: 2014 - 2015

    PI: Darren McAvoy (USU Forestry Extension Associate)

    Co-PI: Ralph Coates (Amaron Energy, Pre-processing Technology)

    Co-PI: Eric Eddings (University of Utah, Chemical Engineering)

    Funding sources:

    See the mobile pyrolysis machine in action


    The proposed research and development of unique pyrolysis technology for producing bio fuels enhances national security. Applying this technology to utilize wood harvested from western pinyon-juniper forests promotes both economic diversification and the environmental sustainability of agricultural production in rural areas of western United States. The proposed research and development also provides coordination and collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, other US Departments and Utah State University, the University of Utah and Amaron Energy.

    Pinyon juniper woodlands are endemic throughout the western US> Not only has coverage increased, but the density per acre has also increased. There are many negative ecological implications associated with the juniper encroachment and land managers are actively seeking to restore ecological values by removal of pinyon juniper. Our ability to effect ecological restoration however is limited by the cost of non-removal treatments and lack of viable utilization options. Because of the widely accepted need for ecological treatment, pinyon juniper is a significant potential for biomass utilization.

    Remediation and treatment of these pinyon juniper forests are the top priority according to some administrative officials and scientists. According to Robin Tausch, 75% of pinyon juniper forests will increase in biomass 300% over the next 50 years. The fires and risks are going to get worse every year - not better. As a long overlooked feedstock in the western US, pinyon juniper wood is also a major resource management challenge. Our ability to effect ecological restoration in this forest type is limited by the cost of non-removal treatments and lack of viable utilization options. Two key barriers to realizing potential utilization: 1) reducing the cost of harvest and processing, and 2) finding conversion processes that are compatible with the properties of these woodlands are a major resource management challenge in the western US. Our ability to effect ecological restoration in this forest type is limited by the cost of non-removal treatments and lack of viable utilization options. The proposed research and development will result in economical and environmentally sound mobile equipment for thermo-chemical conversion of both invasive pinyon juniper trees at locations near where they grow.

    mobile equipment trailor


    • Scale-up an existing 0.5 ton / day mobile pyrolysis unit to 10 tons / day mobile unit.
    • Conduct operational tests on 10 ton / day unit to produce bio-oil, biochar, and biogas from pinyon-juniper wood.
    • Demonstrate portable operation.
    • Upgrade targeted fuels and chemicals for use in transportation fuel.

    fuel tank


    Catalytic hydroprocessing of fast pyrolysis bio-oils is a promising alternative for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals, while the industry is lacking processes that would make this conversion economically competitive in today's market. Herein, we propose a novel process for catalytic upgrading of bio-oils to fuels and various chemicals

    1. The crude bio-oil is first hydrogenated with highly active noble metal catalysts at low temperatures to stabilize the active components, and the hydrogenated bio-oil is expected to have two phases consisting of an aqueous phase and an organic phase
    2. The aqueous phase consisting mainly of carboxylic acids is then collected for producing (i) esters by esterification, (ii) higher alcohols by ketonization and hydrogenation, or (iii) H2 by steam reforming
    3. For the organic phase, conventional hydrodeoxygenation catalysts are employed to completely remove the oxygen at high temperature to produce saturated hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, or light olefins. Successful completion of this research would lay the framework for catalytic upgrading of fast pyrolysis bio-oils to fuels and various chemicals.

    Mobile Pyrolysis Unit In the News:

    Ellensburg Daily Record