Comparison of the effect of pre-treatment and catalysts on liquid quality from fast pyrolysis of biomass

  • Antzela Fivga

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The overall objective of this work was to compare the effect of pre-treatment and catalysts on the quality of liquid products from fast pyrolysis of biomass. This study investigated the upgrading of bio-oil in terms of its quality as a bio-fuel and/or source of chemicals. Bio-oil used directly as a biofuel for heat or power needs to be improved particularly in terms of temperature sensitivity, oxygen content, chemical instability, solid content, and heating values. Chemicals produced from bio-oil need to be able to meet product specifications for market acceptability.
There were two main objectives in this research. The first was to examine the influence of pre-treatment of biomass on the fast pyrolysis process and liquid quality. The relationship between the method of pre-treatment of biomass feedstock to fast pyrolysis oil quality was studied. The thermal decomposition behaviour of untreated and pretreated feedstocks was studied by using a TGA (thermogravimetric analysis) and a Py-GC/MS (pyroprobe-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry). Laboratory scale reactors (100g/h, 300g/h, 1kg/h) were used to process untreated and pretreated feedstocks by fast pyrolysis.
The second objective was to study the influence of numerous catalysts on fast
pyrolysis liquids from wheat straw. The first step applied analytical pyrolysis (Py-GC/MS) to determine which catalysts had an effect on fast pyrolysis liquid, in order to select catalysts for further laboratory fast pyrolysis. The effect of activation,
temperature, and biomass pre-treatment on catalysts were also investigated.
Laboratory experiments were also conducted using the existing 300g/h fluidised bed reactor system with a secondary catalytic fixed bed reactor.
The screening of catalysts showed that CoMo was a highly active catalyst, which particularly reduced the higher molecular weight products of fast pyrolysis. From these screening tests, CoMo catalyst was selected for larger scale laboratory experiments. With reference to the effect of pre-treatment work on fast pyrolysis process, a significant effect occurred on the thermal decomposition of biomass, as well as the pyrolysis products composition, and the proportion of key components in bio-oil. Torrefaction proved to have a mild influence on pyrolysis products, when compared to aquathermolysis and steam pre-treatment.
Date of Award1 Feb 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTony Bridgwater (Supervisor)


  • pyrolysis-oil
  • pre-treatment
  • biomass
  • catalysts

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