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Optimization of an Intermittent Slug Injection System for Sawdust Biomass Pyrolysis
International Journal of Chemical Reactor Engineering (2012)
  • Federico M Berruti
  • Lorenzo Ferrante, The University of Western Ontario
  • Franco Berruti, The University of Western Ontario
  • Cedric Briens, The University of Western Ontario

Among many other potential applications, intermittent solid slug feeders can be used to effectively inject biomass materials into fluidized bed reactors for pyrolysis. In particular, these feeders can be used to convey biomass materials that are highly cohesive to prevent plugging or undesirable reaction in the feeding tube. Although feeders of this design have been shown to work very effectively, they have not been studied in detail or optimized for the pyrolysis process. In addition, the operating conditions required to obtain predictable and consistent mass flow rates and slugs of desirable characteristics need to be established.

The purpose of this work was to design, build and demonstrate the operation of a horizontal intermittent solid slug feeder and to test it with sawdust as the feed material. Sawdust is an extremely cohesive and difficult biomass to inject, but one that holds great potential as an important renewable feedstock for pyrolysis.

The intermittent feeder designed for this work consisted of a pressurized vertical solids storage silo leading to a pneumatic pinch valve. The pinch valve, controlled by solenoid valves connected to a relay timer, released the feed into a horizontal feeding tube at a ninety degree angle. Within the silo, a rotating mixer prevented the bridging of solids. Intermittent pulses of gas from a control volume were fed into the horizontal feeding tube, as well as, in some cases, a continuous gas flow. The timing of the pulses was controlled by solenoid valves with a relay timer. While the pinch valve is opened, solids fall into the horizontal feeding tube forming a plug, which is then propelled by the pulsating gas into the reactor. The solid mass flow rate was experimentally measured by collecting the solids and continuously measuring the mass using a digital balance.

Several variables were tested in order to optimize the performance of the feeder and the consistency of the feeding rate. They included the silo pressure, mixing rate, gas pulse pressure and volume, continuous gas mass flow rate, and the open pinch-valve time interval. The goals of this optimization were (a) to maximize the solid-to-gas ratio of mass flow rates, since the gas mass flux must be minimized to avoid wasting energy, and (b) to define operating conditions required to inject consistent biomass mass flow rates suitable for a laboratory scale pyrolysis reactor, and (c) to propose initial design criteria and a calibration procedure for intermittent solid slug feeders.

The results demonstrated that the intermittent solid slug feeder system successfully achieved the desired objectives and showed how to efficiently select its optimum operating conditions.

  • sawdust,
  • intermittent,
  • feeder,
  • slug,
  • fluidized bed,
  • pyrolysis,
  • optimization
Publication Date
March 2, 2012
Citation Information
Federico M Berruti, Lorenzo Ferrante, Franco Berruti and Cedric Briens. "Optimization of an Intermittent Slug Injection System for Sawdust Biomass Pyrolysis" International Journal of Chemical Reactor Engineering Vol. 7 (2012)
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