Improvement of bio-oil stability in wood pyrolysis process

  • Peiyan Liu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Pyrolysis is one of several thermochemical technologies that convert solid biomass into more useful and valuable bio-fuels. Pyrolysis is thermal degradation in the complete or partial absence of oxygen. Under carefully controlled conditions, solid biomass can be converted to a liquid known as bie-oil in 75% yield on dry feed. Bio-oil can be used as a fuel but has the drawback of having a high level of oxygen due to the presence of a complex mixture of molecular fragments of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin polymers. Also, bio-oil has a number of problems in use including high initial viscosity, instability resulting in increased viscosity or phase separation and high solids content. Much effort has been spent on upgrading bio-oil into a more usable liquid fuel, either by modifying the liquid or by major chemical and catalytic conversion to hydrocarbons. The overall primary objective was to improve oil stability by exploring different ways. The first was to detennine the effect of feed moisture content on bio-oil stability. The second method was to try to improve bio-oil stability by partially oxygenated pyrolysis. The third one was to improve stability by co-pyrolysis with methanol. The project was carried out on an existing laboratory pyrolysis reactor system, which works well with this project without redesign or modification too much. During the finishing stages of this project, it was found that the temperature of the condenser in the product collection system had a marked impact on pyrolysis liquid stability. This was discussed in this work and further recommendation given. The quantity of water coming from the feedstock and the pyrolysis reaction is important to liquid stability. In the present work the feedstock moisture content was
varied and pyrolysis experiments were carried out over a range of temperatures. The quality of the bio-oil produced was measured as water content, initial viscosity and stability. The result showed that moderate (7.3-12.8 % moisture) feedstock moisture led to more stable bio-oil. One of drawbacks of bio-oil was its instability due to containing unstable oxygenated chemicals. Catalytic hydrotreatment of the oil and zeolite cracking of pyrolysis vapour were discllssed by many researchers, the processes were intended to eliminate oxygen
in the bio-oil. In this work an alternative way oxygenated pyrolysis was introduced in order to reduce oil instability, which was intended to oxidise unstable oxygenated chemicals in the bio-oil. The results showed that liquid stability was improved by oxygen addition during the pyrolysis of beech wood at an optimum air factor of about 0.09-0.15. Methanol as a postproduction additive to bio-oil has been studied by many researchers and the most effective result came from adding methanol to oil just after production. Co-pyrolysis of spruce wood with methanol was undertaken in the present work and it was found that methanol improved liquid stability as a co-pyrolysis solvent but was no more effective than when used as a postproduction additive.
Date of Award2003
Original languageEnglish


  • bio-oil stability
  • wood pyrolysis process
  • Biomass
  • pyrolysis
  • moisture content
  • viscosity

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