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Keywords:

  • biofuels;
  • biomass;
  • bio-oil;
  • liquefaction;
  • solvent effects

Abstract

The liquefaction of lignocellulosic biomass is studied for the production of liquid (transportation) fuels. The process concept uses a product recycle as a liquefaction medium and produces a bio-oil that can be co-processed in a conventional oil refinery. This all is done at medium temperature (≈300 °C) and pressure (≈60 bar). Solvent-screening experiments showed that oxygenated solvents are preferred as they allow high oil (up to 93 % on carbon basis) and low solid yields (≈1–2 % on carbon basis) and thereby outperform the liquefaction of biomass in compressed water and biomass pyrolysis. The following solvent ranking was obtained: guaiacol>hexanoic acid≫n-undecane. The use of wet biomass results in higher oil yields than dry biomass. However, it also results in a higher operating pressure, which would make the process more expensive. Refill experiments were also performed to evaluate the possibility to recycle the oil as the liquefaction medium. The recycled oil appeared to be very effective to liquefy the biomass and even surpassed the start-up solvent guaiacol, but became increasingly heavy and more viscous after each refill and eventually showed a molecular weight distribution that resembles that of refinery vacuum residue.