In-woods Pyrolysis of Woody Biomass

Wood Energy March 12, 2010 Print Friendly and PDF

by EL. Taylor and S. Ashton

Advanced Biorefinery’s modular pyrolysis system is designed for use in the forest. The complete system also includes a reactor and a condenser, not shown here.

In areas where the cost of transporting wood remains a challenge, portable wood-to-energy conversion units may be an option. Small-scale, portable pyrolysis (a system that turns wood directly into an oil and char) and gasification (a system that turns wood directly into a gas) units can be towed to a harvesting site and utilized to produce fuel on-site. It is important to note, however, this technology is still largely in its experimental stages.

modified from Polagye et al, 2007.

In-woods pyrolysis can convert forest biomass into liquid form, which simplifies and reduces transportation costs. Pyrolysis oil (bio-oil) has comparatively higher energy density than raw forms of biomass, 6 to 7 times that of green whole tree chips (Badger and Fransham 2006). Produced under the right technology, Bio-oil can be used as a substitute or as a blend with No. 2 fuel oil for heating, power plant fuel, or for use in the chemical industry. A pyrolysis facility can be mobile, transportable, relocatable, or stationary. The cost and production capacities for the two facilities of interest are outlined in Table 1. In-woods, mobile pyrolysis costs $159 per ton compared to $73 per ton for a transportable facility at a more central location.

Click on the following link to learn more about Comparisons of In-Woods Densification Options in the Western Gulf


  • Badger PC, Fransham P. 2006. Use of mobile fast pyrolysis plants to densify biomass and reduce biomass handling costs—A preliminary assessment. Biomass & Bioeenrgy. 30:321-325.
  • Polagye BL, Hodgson KT, Malte PC. 2007. An economic analysis of bio-energy options using thinnings from overstocked forests. Biomass and Bioenergy 31:105-125.

Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook


This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by



There are many factors that help determine the use woody biomass for energy production.  Below we consider the decision-making points involved in the process.  

How are We Doing?


Take A Short Survey Here and Help Us Out




This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.