Blog icon


What is it?

Biomass pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of biomass in a non-oxidising environment to produce predominantly bio-char, pyrolysis liquid, and syngas. The composition is dependent on operating conditions and feedstock type. Catalyst choice alters the hydrogen yield in the gas component at different temperatures. When biomass-derived liquid reforming is employed, addition of steam or oxidation results in steam reforming and produces a stream of syngas.

Why is it important?

Biomass is plentiful, regenerative and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making this process carbon neutral. Coupling the process with CCUS has the potential to make it carbon negative. Simultaneous treatment of municipal waste is also possible.


  • Inputs: Biomass, water
  • By-products: Carbon dioxide, solid charcoal (biochar)
  • Operating temperature: >500°C
  • Energy efficiency: 35-50%


  • With upgrading and stabilisation, the pyrolysis liquid can be used as a substitute for fossil fuels, or used for biomass-derived liquid reforming
  • Lower temperature requirements
  • Biochar can be used in biomass gasification, or used for fertilising agricultural soil


  • Low thermal efficiency due to high moisture content of biomass that must be dried
  • Produces a significant amount of tar in product gas
  • Significant resource requirements to gather and transport biomass to plant for pyrolysis.
  • Produces carbon dioxide (CCUS required)
  • Note: The TRL of this technology varies based on feedstock: TRL 7-8 for woody biomass, and TRL 5-7 for municipal solid waste

RD&D priorities

  • Improve modelling and simulations of the heat, mass and momentum effects in conjunction with kinetics
  • Minimise pyrolysis oil formation and improve H2 production
  • Process miniaturisation and mobilisation (development of portable units)
  • Integrate renewable energy sources. For example, concentrated solar power can act as a thermal energy source for the process

Known active organisations

  • Curtin University
  • Monash University
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • The University of Adelaide
  • The University of Newcastle
  • The University of Queensland
  • The University of Western Australia

Other opportunities like this

Contact us

Find out how we can help you and your business. Get in touch using the form below and our experts will get in contact soon!

CSIRO will handle your personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and our Privacy Policy.

First name must be filled in

Surname must be filled in

I am representing *

Please choose an option

Please provide a subject for the enquriy

0 / 100

We'll need to know what you want to contact us about so we can give you an answer

0 / 1900

You shouldn't be able to see this field. Please try again and leave the field blank.