Thermal processing

The energy in wood and other lignocellulosic biomass can be made more available by altering its chemical and physical properties using processes with varying temperatures, pressures and with or without oxygen. Scion is developing thermochemical technologies to produce both liquid and solid biofuels from biomass.

Fast pyrolysis

Wood particles heated to around 500°C in the absence of oxygen vapourise. When condensed, the vapours from a crude bio-oil. The remaining solids form char. The bio-oil can be upgraded and blended with fossil fuels and directly “dropped” into use.

Scion’s fast pyrolysis pilot plant can convert 1 kg or wood into about 700 g of pyrolysis oil an hour.

Read more about the plant.

Listen to our scientists talking about pyrolysis [RNZ]


Heating biomass in the absence of oxygen, or torrefaction, removes water and volatile components to give an energy-dense product. Forestry residues, bark, sawdust, and other byproducts of wood processing have the potential to replace coal, but "as is" they can be difficult to transport and use. Scion is working to improve the usability of woody residue as an energy source using torrefaction followed by compressing the torrefied wood into pellets, briquettes or logs.

Read more about torrefaction [pdf]


Paul Bennett, Portfolio Leader, Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering