Pyrolysis liquids and gases as alternative fuels in internal combustion engines: a review

A.K. Hossain, P.A. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Liquids and gases produced through biomass pyrolysis have potential as renewable fuels to replace fossil fuels in conventional internal combustion engines. This review compares the properties of pyrolysis fuels, produced from a variety of feedstocks and using different pyrolysis techniques, against those of fossil fuels. High acidity, the presence of solid particles, high water content, high viscosity, storage and thermal instability, and low energy content are typical characteristics of pyrolysis liquids. A survey of combustion, performance and exhaust emission results from the use of pyrolysis liquids (both crude and up-graded) in compression ignition engines is presented. With only a few exceptions, most authors have reported difficulties associated with the adverse properties of pyrolysis liquids, including: corrosion and clogging of the injectors, long ignition delay and short combustion duration, difficulty in engine start-up, unstable operation, coking of the piston and cylinders and subsequent engine seizure. Pyrolysis gas can be used more readily, either in spark ignition or compression ignition engines; however, NO reduction techniques are desirable. Various approaches to improve the properties of pyrolysis liquids are discussed and a comparison of the properties of up-graded vs. crude pyrolysis liquid is included. Further developments in up-gradation techniques, such as hydrocracking and bio-refinery approaches, could lead to the production of green diesel and green gasoline. Modifications required to engines for use with pyrolysis liquids, for example in the fuel supply and injection systems, are discussed. Storage stability and economic issues are also reviewed. Our study presents recent progress and important R&D areas for successful future use of pyrolysis fuels in internal combustion engines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-189
Number of pages25
JournalRenewable and sustainable energy reviews
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding: Research Councils (UK) and Department of Science and Technology (Government of India) under the Science Bridges programme, as part of the project ‘Bio-energy: Technology and Business solutions for the UK and India (grant number EP/G039992/1).


  • IC engine
  • pyrolysis liquids
  • performance
  • emission
  • second-generation biofuels


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