SFWS Seminar: Bio-oil research at MSU

October 23, 2013 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
1101 SFWS Building
Dr. Brian Via

Title: Progress in Production and Upgrading of Bio-oil at Mississippi State University


Abstract: Mississippi State University (MSU) has been involved in designing pyrolysis reactors and developing methods to upgrade bio-oil to fuels for nearly ten years. The upgrading effort began about 2 years after development of our first pyrolysis reactor which made bio-oil available for such experiments. MSU has designed and perfected a pyrolysis reactor design based on auger technology that will soon be scaled up to 2 tons per day of production.


However, our greatest focus is on production of fuels from agricultural and forestry biomass. We have explored several routes including esterification, olefination and hydroprocessing. We currently are performing experiments in both batch and continuous packed bed reactor modes. These efforts will be described.


We have also performed research to increase and utilized anhydrosugars from bio-oil. We have patented a method that utilizes modification of our auger reactor to nearly double the production of these anhydrosugars. Research to remove inhibitors from the aqueous fraction in which the anhydrosugars are found has been performed and ethanol has been produced with the product.


MSU is currently fabricating a pyrolysis pilot plant in a 4,000 sq. ft. area of the Energy Institute pilot plant facility. The pyrolysis pilot plant has a biomass processing system feeding a pyrolysis reactor scaled to 2 tons per day. The plan is to produce 12 gallons of bio-oil per day to allow larger quantities of hydrocarbons to be produced for engine and other tests. Fuels will be produced in a 4.5 gallon continuous stirred reactor and a hydrotreater designed for the pilot plant.


Dr. Philip Steele, Professor and Thrust Leader of the Mississippi State University Sustainable Research Center

Dr. Philip Steele has been a Professor in the Department of Forest Products, College of Forest Resources, Mississippi State University (MSU) for 25 years with both research and teaching duties.  He is currently also the Thrust Leader of the Sustainable Energy Research Center Bio-oil Research Group. In this role he coordinates the research activities of MSU faculty researchers focused on developing fuels and chemical products from bio-oil produced from forestry and agricultural products.


Dr. Steele received a B.S. in Liberal Arts from the University of Maryland, and Master for Forestry from Michigan State University and a Ph.D in Wood Science from Mississippi State University. His research area is the production of bioenergy from pyrolysis of forestry and agricultural biomass. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Forest Products Society and the Society of Wood Science and Technology.


Dr. Steele has won several research awards including the College of Forest Resources Outstanding Research Award and awards for exceptional research papers from both the Hardwood Research Council and the Forest Products Society. He also received a State Pride award for 2010, 2011 and 2012. He also won the College of Forest Resources (CFR) 2010 Warren S. Thompson Professor of Wood Science and Technology award for research excellence. He was chosen to receive the 2013 CFR Faculty Research Award. Recently, Dr. Steele was awarded the Regions Bank Award for Superior Research in the university’s Division of Agriculture.


Dr. Steele has 4 U.S. patents and 3 U.S. patents which are pending. Three of his patents have been licensed. He has published widely and is the author or co-author of over 180 research papers and two book chapters.

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