A comparative study of straw, perennial grasses and hardwoods in terms of fast pyrolysis products

C.E. Greenhalf, D.J. Nowakowski, A.B. Harms, J.O. Titiloye, A.V. Bridgwater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study is to characterise and compare fast pyrolysis product yields from straw, high yielding perennial grasses and hardwoods. Feedstocks selected for this study include: wheat straw (Triticum aestivum), switch grass (Panicum virgatum), miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), willow short rotation coppice (Salix viminalis) and beech wood (Fagus sylvatica). The experimental work is divided into two sections: analytical (TGA and Py-GC-MS) and laboratory scale processing using a continuously fed bubbling fluidized bed reactor with a capacity of up to 1 kg/h. Pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) has been used to quantify pyrolysis products and simulate fast pyrolysis heating rates, in order to study potential key light and medium volatile decomposition products found in these feedstocks. Py-GC-MS quantification results show that the highest yields of furfural (0.57 wt.%), 2-furanmethanol (0.18 wt.%), levoglucosan (0.73 wt.%), 1,2-benzenediol (0.27 wt.%) and 2-methoxy-4-vinylphenol (0.38 wt.%) were found in switch grass, and that willow SRC produced the highest yield of phenol (0.33 wt.%). The bio-oil higher heating value was highest for switch grass (22.3 MJ/kg). Water content within the bio-oil is highest in the straw and perennial grasses and lowest in the hardwood willow SRC. The high bio-oil and char heating value and low water content found in willow SRC, makes this crop an attractive energy feedstock for fast pyrolysis processing, if the associated production costs and harvest yields can be maintained at current reported values. The bio-oil from switch grass has the highest potential for the production of high value chemicals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216–230
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Funding: SUPERGEN Bioenergy Consortium under the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Research Grant "SUPERGEN Biomass Biofuels and Energy Crops II Core'' [EP/E039995/1]


  • biomass
  • TGA
  • Py-GC–MS
  • fast pyrolysis
  • bio-oil


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