The development and optimisation of a fast pyrolysis process for bio-oil production

  • Abba Sani Kalgo

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A two-tier study is presented in this thesis. The first involves the commissioning of an extant but at the time, unproven bubbling fluidised bed fast pyrolysis unit. The unit was designed for an intended nominal throughput of 300 g/h of biomass. The unit came complete with solids separation, pyrolysis vapour quenching and oil collection systems. Modifications were carried out on various sections of the system including the reactor heating, quenching and liquid collection systems. The modifications allowed for fast pyrolysis experiments to be carried out at the appropriate temperatures. Bio-oil was generated using conventional biomass feedstocks including Willow, beechwood, Pine and Miscanthus. Results from this phase of the research showed however, that although the rig was capable of processing biomass to bio-oil, it was characterised by low mass balance closures and recurrent operational problems. The problems included blockages, poor reactor hydrodynamics and reduced organic liquid yields. The less than optimal performance of individual sections, particularly the feed and reactor systems of the rig, culminated in a poor overall performance of the system. The second phase of this research involved the redesign of two key components of the unit. An alternative feeding system was commissioned for the unit. The feed system included an off the shelf gravimetric system for accurate metering and efficient delivery of biomass. Similarly, a new bubbling fluidised bed reactor with an intended nominal throughput of 500g/h of biomass was designed and constructed. The design leveraged on experience from the initial commissioning phase with proven kinetic and hydrodynamic studies. These units were commissioned as part of the optimisation phase of the study. Also as part of this study, two varieties each, of previously unreported feedstocks namely Jatropha curcas and Moringa olifiera oil seed press cakes were characterised to determine their suitability as feedstocks for liquid fuel production via fast pyrolysis. Consequently, the feedstocks were used for the production of pyrolysis liquids. The quality of the pyrolysis liquids from the feedstocks were then investigated via a number of analytical techniques. The oils from the press cakes showed high levels of stability and reduced pH values. The improvements to the design of the fast pyrolysis unit led to higher mass balance closures and increased organic liquid yields. The maximum liquid yield obtained from the press cakes was from African Jatropha press cake at 66 wt% on a dry basis.
Date of AwardJun 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJames O Titiloye (Supervisor) & Tony Bridgwater (Supervisor)


  • Biomass
  • jatropha curcas
  • moringa olifiera
  • press cakes
  • fluidised bed reactor

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