Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Chemical and Paper Engineering

First Advisor

Abdus Salam

Second Advisor

James Springstead


The objective for this design is to determine the economic benefits of using soybeans to combine biomass pyrolysis with coal pyrolysis processes to reduce the complexity and cost of producing bio-oils. Biomass is produced in multiple industries and is converted to a usable fuel substitute for petroleum. There will be many methods to analyse the pros and cons which will be used for comparison of biomass to bio-oils reactors system which in this case would be soybeans vs coal gasification.

After thorough research, the team selected a fluidized bed reactor as the main equipment for the fast pyrolysis. The reactor can use the heat produced during the coal gasification to produce steam used in the reactor. Other than that, the fast pyrolysis setup is a fairly common one, consisting of the reactor, cyclone separators to remove any residual char, and then distilling the bio-oil from the residual flue gasses.

After performing an economic analysis, it was concluded that the desired MARR of 70% was more than achievable in the requested 10 years. With a 70% Minimum Acceptable Rate of Return (MARR), a Net Present Value (NPV) of 44-$57MM was determined for this project, along with a Return on Investment (ROI) of 9.38-22.25%/yr, a Pay-Back-Period (PBP) of around 2 weeks, and an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 70%/yr. With these numbers we had varied the cost of the bio-oil to meet demands and compare the profitability between the systems.

To conclude, either system can be more than profitable. However, it is more profitable to proceed with just the fast pyrolysis system as opposed to the combined system with coal gasification. This is due to increased costs of equipment, labor, and materials in order to implement. This analysis is done based on a 10-year plant life, so alternatively scaling the plant or extending the project life could potentially increase the profitability of the combined process above that of the fast pyrolysis only system.


Co-authored with:

Ashlin Arnett

Tyler Hong

Ethan Ray

Angel Torres

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access