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Biomass Pyrolysis

University Of Petroleum and Energy Studies

College Of Engineering Studies

Department of Electrical and Energy




ASHWINI SAHU [R840212010]

ISHAN TIWARI [R840212012]

B.Tech Energy Technology + LL.B [Hons.] With Specialization in IPR


Under the Guidance of Assistant Professor


Department of Chemical Engineering

Biomass Pyrolysis


1. Introduction

2. Biomass- Basic Definitions and compositions

3. Pyrolysis- Applications and products

4. Fast Pyrolysis- Basics and Advantages

5. Production Of Bio oil From Fast Pyrolysis

6. GCFID-TCD- Description, Typical Advantages

7. Conclusion

8. References
Biomass Pyrolysis

The huge energy demand of our society is causing fossil fuel resources to diminish
rapidly. Therefore, it is critical to search for alternative energy resources. Biomass is currently
both abundant and inexpensive. Biofuels (fuels produced from biomass) have the potential to
replace fossil fuels if a cost effective process can be developed to convert biomass into fuels.

As biofuel research continues at an unprecedented rate, the development of new feedstock and
improvements in bioenergy production processes provide the key to the transformation of
biomass into a global energy resource. With the twin threats of climate change and depleted
fossil fuel reserves looming, it is vitally important that research communities are mobilized to
fully realize the potential of bioenergy.

In the present paper the role of ‘Screw Reactor’ in improving the technique and an analysis of
products of pyrolysis i.e. Bio Oils and bio gas produced through ‘GCFID-TCD’ is investigated.

2.0 Biomass

Biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms. In the context of
biomass for energy this is often used to mean plant based material, but biomass can equally
apply to both animal and vegetable derived materials.

2.1 Biomass Composition

Biomass is carbon based and is composed of a mixture of organic molecules containing

hydrogen, usually including atoms of oxygen, often nitrogen and also small quantities of other
atoms, including alkali, alkaline earth and heavy metals. These metals are often found in
functional molecules such as porphyrins which include chlorophyll which contains magnesium.

2.2 Plant material

The carbon used to construct biomass is absorbed from the atmosphere as carbon dioxide by
plant life using energy from sun.

Plant may subsequently be eaten by animals and thus converted into animal biomass. However
the primary absorption is performed by plants. If plant material is not eaten it is generally either
broken down by microorganism or burned :-

 If broken down it releases the carbon back to the atmosphere, mainly as either CO 2 or
CH4, depending upon the condition and processes involved.
 If burned the carbon is returned to the atmosphere as CO2.
Biomass Pyrolysis

These processes have happened for as long as there have been plants on earth and is part of what
is known as the carbon cycle.

2.3 Categories of biomass materials:-

Within this definition, biomass for energy can include a wide range of materials. The realities of
the economics mean that high value material for which there is an alternative market, such as
good quality, large timber, are very unlikely to become available for energy application.
However there are huge resources of residues, co-products and waste that exist could potentially
become available, in quantity, at relatively low cost, or even negative cost where there is
currently a requirement to pay for disposal.

There are five basic categories of material:-

 Virgin wood:- from forestry, arboriculture activities or from wood processing

 Energy crops:- high yield crops grown specifically for energy application
 Agriculture residues:- residue from agriculture harvesting or processing
 Food waste:- from food and drink manufacture, preparation and processing, and post-
consumer waste
 Industrial waste and co-products:- from manufacturing and industrial processes.

With this fundamental knowledge about biomass we move on the next question which is –

3.0 Pyrolysis
Pyrolysis is the precursor to gasification, and takes place as part of both gasification and
combustion. It consists of thermal decomposition in the absence of oxygen. It is essentially
based on a long established process, being the basis of charcoal burning.

3.1 Products of pyrolysis

The products of pyrolysis include gas, liquid and a sold char, with the proportions of each
depending upon the parameters of the process.

3.2 Applications

Applications for pyrolysis include:

 Biomass energy densification for transport or storage

 Co-firing for heat or power
Biomass Pyrolysis

 Feedstock for gasification.

3.3 Lower vs. higher temperature pyrolysis

Lower temperatures (around 400ºC) tend to produce more solid char (slow pyrolysis), whereas
somewhat higher temperatures (around 500ºC) produce a much higher proportion of liquid (bio-
oil), provided the vapour residence time is kept down to around 1s or less. After this, secondary
reactions take place and increase the gas yield. [1]

3.4 Uses for bio-oil produced

The bio-oil produced by fast (higher temperature) pyrolysis is described as a dark brown,
mobile liquid with a heating value about half that of conventional fuel oil. It can be:

 Burned directly
 Co-fired
 Upgraded to other fuels
 Gasified.

It can therefore be used as an energy vector, effectively increasing the energy density of
biomass for transportation and storage.

4.0 Fast Pyrolysis

In the fast pyrolysis process, biomass is rapidly heated to a high temperature in the absence of
Oxygen. Typically on a weight basis, fast pyrolysis produces 60%–75% of oily products (oil and
other liquids) with 15%–25% of solids (mainly bio char) and 10%–20% of gaseous phase
depending on the feedstock used. The production of liquids is usually yielded from biomass in a
low temperature, high heating rate and short resident time environment. The basic characteristics
of the fast pyrolysis process are high heat transfer and heating rate, very short vapour residence
time, rapid cooling of vapours and aerosol for high bio-oil yield and precision control of reaction

Fast-pyrolysis technology is receiving incredible popularity in producing liquid fuels and a range
of specialty and commodity chemicals. This liquid product can be easily and economically
transported and stored, thereby de-coupling the handling of solid biomass from utilization . It
also has potential to supply a number of valuable chemicals that offer the attraction of much
higher added value than fuels. Fast pyrolysis technology can have relatively low investment costs
and high energy efficiencies compared to other processes, especially on a small scale. Production
of bio-oil through fast pyrolysis has received more attention in recent year due to the following

4.1 Advantages

Renewable fuel for boiler, engine, turbine, power generation and industrial processes;
Biomass Pyrolysis

Low cost and neutral CO2 balance;

Utilization of second generation bio-oil feed stocks and waste materials (forest residue,
municipal and industrial waste, etc.);
Storability and transportability of liquid fuels;
High energy density compared to atmospheric biomass gasification fuel gases;
Possibility for separating minerals on the site of liquid fuel production to be recycled to the
soil as a nutrient;
Secondary conversion to motor-fuels, additives or special chemicals;
Primary separation of the sugar and lignin fractions in biomass with subsequent further
upgrading. [2]

5.0 Production of Pyrolysis Oil from Biomass

5.1 Description

Fast pyrolysis of biomass is widely used for bio oil (pyrolysis oil) production. Bio oil can be
applied as a fuel in boilers, diesel engines and gas turbines.
Fast pyrolysis technology on the basis of ablative reactor of a new type (screw reactor) has been
developed. In the reactor particles of raw material are under heating and ablative influence
(ablation) due to squeezing and rubbing against the body of the reactor. These two factors insure
optimal parameters of the process for high yield of liquid biofuel.

5.2 Innovative Aspects and Main Advantages

Developed technology is simpler than some other existing fast pyrolysis technologies
(circulating fluid bed, circulating transported bed). Developed screw reactor can operate on a raw
material with rather big particles. Proposed technology gives a very high yield of pyrolysis oil
(up to 70% of biomass supplied to the reactor). Produced pyrolysis oil is expected to have lower
content of water in comparison with other pyrolysis technologies. Proposed technology gives the
opportunity to create both stationary and mobile pyrolysis units. Fast pyrolysis technology on the
basis of ablative reactor of a new type practically does not pollute environment with products of
cleaning up. [3]

5.3 Area of Application

Pyrolysis unit can be applied in rural areas where biomass such as agricultural residues or wood
waste is available to be used as raw material for bio oil production.

5.4 Stage of development

Biomass Pyrolysis

Technology is patented and is now on a conceptual stage. Draft design of a 15 kg/hr pilot unit is


Layout of the pyrolysis unit

In this project we will also be analyzing The Bio Oil Produced through GCFID-TCD.


6.1 Gas Chromatography (GC-FID/TCD/FPD Analysis)

Gas Chromatography (GC) provides a quantitative analysis of volatile and semi-volatile organic
compounds found in a variety of matrices (gases, liquids and solids) in foods, medical materials,
plastics, environmental samples and occupational monitoring samples.

Flame-ionization detectors (FID), Flame photometric detectors (FPD) and thermal conductivity
detectors (TCD) are useful for determining the concentration of specific compounds.

 Rapid, quantitative, cost effective and compound specific.

Biomass Pyrolysis

 Can be performed with minimal sample preparation or clean up.

 Quantification of bulk gases methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, N2, O2, Ethane,
Propane, Acetylene, Ethylene and helium
 Quantification of hydrogen sulphide, mercaptans, DMS and carbon disulphide
 Characterization and quantification of oils and fuels and phthalates.

6.2 Typical Applications

 Quantification of bulk gases in landfill gas and biogas.

 Quantification of sulphurous compounds in landfill gas and biogas
 Determination of carbon monoxide for landfill underground fires
 Determination of TPH content of wastes
 Determination of phthalate content in children’s toys and packaging for medical devices.

6.3 Typical Industries using Gas Chromatography

 Medical devices
 Automotive
 Materials
 Waste water treatment plants
 Landfill operators
 Waste treatment plants

7.0 Conclusion
Much attention has been given to biomass pyrolysis because of an opportunity for the processing
of agricultural residues, wood wastes and municipal solid waste into clean energy. This study
identified the route of pyrolysis technology i.e., selection of operating modes of pyrolysis, types
of reactor, etc., based on the desired product output (bio-oil, bio-char or syngas). However, a
sound understanding of the inherent process will allow pyrolysis products to be maximized.

The following conclusion and recommendation could be drawn:

1. It is a research challenge to optimize the process by maximizing product quality and quantity
while paying proper attention to minimizing costs and environmental concerns;

2. Bio-oil production through pyrolysis is still an immature technology and is not commercially
feasible yet. Pyrolysis bio-oil needs to overcome many technical, economic and social barriers to
compete with tradition fossil fuels. Effective and rapid char separation techniques need to be
developed so as to reduce solids contamination in bio-oil;

3. Along with pyrolysis technology, proper biomass selection is also a critical issue to achieve
high bio-oil yields. Biomass with high cellulose content could be chosen, as bio-oils are mainly
derived from it. In addition, biomass with low water content is desirable to reduce drying costs
and improve oil quality;
Biomass Pyrolysis

8.0 References
The following Research Reports, Articles and Thesis have been consulted as an attempt to
demonstrate and support the hypothesis:

[1] "Pyrolysis." Pyrolysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2014.

[2] M. Jahirul, M. Rasul, A. Chowdhury, and N. Ashwath, “Biofuels Production through

Biomass Pyrolysis —A Technological Review,” Energies, vol. 5, no. 12, pp. 4952–5001,
Nov. 2012.

[3] Czernik, Stefan, and A. V. Bridgwater. "Overview of applications of biomass fast

Pyrolysis oil." Energy & Fuels 18.2 (2004): 590-598.