Thermal processing of miscanthus, sugarcane bagasse, sugarcane trash and their acid hydrolysis residues

  • Ana Cortes Benitez

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The research presented in this thesis was developed as part of DIBANET, an EC funded project aiming to develop an energetically self-sustainable process for the production of diesel miscible biofuels (i.e. ethyl levulinate) via acid hydrolysis of selected biomass feedstocks. Three thermal conversion technologies, pyrolysis, gasification and combustion, were evaluated in the present work with the aim of recovering the energy stored in the acid hydrolysis solid residue (AHR). Mainly consisting of lignin and humins, the AHR can contain up to 80% of the energy in the original feedstock. Pyrolysis of AHR proved unsatisfactory, so attention focussed on gasification and combustion with the aim of producing heat and/or power to supply the energy demanded by the ethyl levulinate production process.
A thermal processing rig consisting on a Laminar Entrained Flow Reactor (LEFR) equipped with solid and liquid collection and online gas analysis systems was designed and built to explore pyrolysis, gasification and air-blown combustion of AHR. Maximum liquid yield for pyrolysis of AHR was 30wt% with volatile conversion of 80%. Gas yield for AHR gasification was 78wt%, with 8wt% tar yields and conversion of volatiles close to 100%. 90wt% of the AHR was transformed into gas by combustion, with volatile conversions above 90%. 5volO2%-95vol%N2 gasification resulted in a nitrogen diluted, low heating value gas (2MJ/m3). Steam and oxygen-blown gasification of AHR were additionally investigated in a batch gasifier at KTH in Sweden. Steam promoted the formation of hydrogen (25vol%) and methane (14vol%) improving the gas heating value to 10MJ/m3, below the typical for steam gasification due to equipment limitations.
Arrhenius kinetic parameters were calculated using data collected with the LEFR to provide reaction rate information for process design and optimisation. Activation energy (EA) and pre-exponential factor (ko in s-1) for pyrolysis (EA=80kJ/mol, lnko=14), gasification (EA=69kJ/mol, lnko=13) and combustion (EA=42kJ/mol, lnko=8) were calculated after linearly fitting the data using the random pore model. Kinetic parameters for pyrolysis and combustion were also determined by dynamic thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), including studies of the original biomass feedstocks for comparison. Results obtained by differential and integral isoconversional methods for activation energy determination were compared. Activation energy calculated by the Vyazovkin method was 103-204kJ/mol for pyrolysis of untreated feedstocks and 185-387kJ/mol for AHRs. Combustion activation energy was 138-163kJ/mol for biomass and 119-158 for AHRs. The non-linear least squares method was used to determine reaction model and pre-exponential factor. Pyrolysis and combustion of biomass were best modelled by a combination of third order reaction and 3 dimensional diffusion models, while AHR decomposed following the third order reaction for pyrolysis and the 3 dimensional diffusion for combustion.
Date of Award13 Apr 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorTony Bridgwater (Supervisor)


  • acid hydrolysis residue
  • thermal decomposition kinetics
  • thermogravimetric analysis (TGA)
  • laminar entrained flow reactor (LEFR)

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