Biorefinery process modelling and economics

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Darryn Rackemann
Senior Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Worldwide transportation fuel production is currently circa 100 million barrels per day with the vast majority from fossil fuel sources. Pyrolysis and liquefaction are potential promising thermochemical technologies for producing renewable fuels and chemicals from biomass, however, the resultant biocrude/bio-oil has many complex properties inherited from the characteristics of the original feedstock, which make it a generally low-grade fuel alternative. Upgrading of the bio-oils are necessary to produce higher quality products and challenges exist to cost-effectively achieve this target. There is much interest in optimising thermochemical processes by choosing suitable feedstock pre-treatments, co-processing, reaction conditions, reactor designs, catalysts and upgrading strategies.

Research activities

The project will focus on the development and validation of process models for the thermochemical technologies using a chemical engineering simulator such as ASPEN or Hysys. The process model would represent the key components of biorefining operations, including drying and feeding system, hydrothermal (catalytic) reactor, gas/solid separation, heat recovery, quench systems, gas and aqueous recycle and utilization, and upgrading hydrotreatment and catalytic cracking processes.

Additionally, reactor and process equipment designs would be developed and improved using computation fluids dynamics (CFD) modelling techniques.


  • Mathematical model of the mass and energy balance of the thermochemical processes to optimise the production of biofuels from renewable and waste feedstocks.
  • Development of feedstock agnostic biorefinery process models and utilities integration.
  • Develop improved reactor and process equipment designs using CFD software.
  • Techno-economic and life cycle analysis, evaluation and comparison of thermochemical technologies.

Skills and experience

The project is designed for students with a background in industrial chemistry or chemical engineering.



Contact the supervisor for more information.