Catalytic upgrading of hydrothermal liquefaction biocrudes: Different challenges for different feedstocks

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Author(s) :
Daniele Castello, Muhammad Salman Haider, Lasse Aistrup Rosendah
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Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) followed by catalytic hydrotreating of the produced biocrude is increasingly gaining ground as an effective technology for the conversion of biomass into liquid biofuels. A strong advantage of HTL resides in its great flexibility towards the feedstock, since it is able to treat a large number of different organic substrates, ranging from dry to wet residual biomass. Nevertheless, the characteristics of biocrudes from different typologies of organic materials result in different challenges to be met during the hydrotreating step, leading to differences in heteroatoms removal and in the typology and composition of the targeted products. In this work, biocrudes were catalytically hydrotreated with a commercial NiMo/Al2O3 catalyst at different temperatures and pressures. Sewage sludge biocrude was found to be very promising for the production of straight-chain hydrocarbons in the diesel range, with considerable heteroatoms removal even at mild hydrotreating conditions. Similar results were shown by algal biocrude, although complete denitrogenation is challenging. Upgraded biocrudes from lignocellulosic feedstock (miscanthus) showed high yields in the gasoline range, with a remarkable content of aromatics. Operating at a higher H2 pressure was found to be crucial to prevent coking and decarboxylation reactions.

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