Abstract Fundamental and applied research and engineering development over the past 13 years has demonstrated that continuous reactors could be used with very fast heating rates and short residence times to produce high yields of liquids from biomass. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed the ablative pyrolysis system and Interchem Environmental is commercializing this technology. Interchem designed and built a first generation, 32.7 tonnes (36 tons) per day, prototype ablative pyrolysis system in Missouri. The system was operated for 15 months with varying degrees of success. A second generation plant was designed based on the operating data collected from the first plant and on NREL's design for the vortex reactor. This facility is currently being built in Kansas City, KS. This paper discusses the design and operation of the first generation prototype facility and the design of the second generation system. The second plant is designed to produce 70% oil, 15% char and 15% non-condensible gases from the incoming wood. The oil will be sold as boiler fuel, the char sold as a feedstock to charcoal briquette manufacturers and the gases burned to provide process heat. Upon successful commercialization of this process, agricultural and forest residues can be converted into valuable products. In addition, the process offers a mechanism to use biomass as a feedstock for chemical production rather than relying on petroleum feedstocks.