Hydrothermal gasification and oxidation as effective flameless conversion technologies for organic wastes

J. A. Onwudili, P. T. Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two major organic reactions in water under high temperature and high pressure, hydrothermal oxidation and gasification, possess great potential towards the thermochemical treatment of high moisture content organic wastes of different varieties and sources. Essentially, hydrothermal oxidation converts organic liquid and/or solid wastes to mainly carbon dioxide and water. Environmentally important and refractory organic pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic compounds, e.g. pyrene, naphthalene, phenanthrene, fluorene and biphenyl, and di-n-butyl phthalate, have been decomposed under oxidative hydrothermal conditions, with conversions of up to 99.9% obtained. Real world environmental wastes and pollutants have also been oxidised. The hydrothermal gasification process offers a new route for 'green' fuel production from biomass and biowastes resulting in a CO2 neutral energy technology. Generally, the main products of hydrothermal gasification are carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, C1-C4 hydrocarbons and water. Gasification via partial oxidation experiments with glucose, cellulose and starch, which are major components of biomass and biodegradable wastes, showed that up to 38 wt-% of their hydrogen content can be released as hydrogen. This paper describes the application of these hydrothermal processes to a range of model compounds and biodegradable waste samples to illustrate the potential of these novel organic waste treatment technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-109
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Energy Institute
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2008


  • Gasification
  • Hydrothermal
  • Oxidation
  • Supercritical


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