An overview of catalysts in biomass pyrolysis for production of biofuels

Document Type: Review Paper

Authors

1 Laboratory of Thermal Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands.

2 Catalytic Processes and Materials, Faculty of Science & Technology, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands.

Abstract

In-situ catalytic pyrolysis of biomass has been extensively studied in recent years for cost-competitive production of high quality bio-oil. To achieve that, numerous catalysts have been studied to facilitate in-situ upgrading of low-grade condensable vapors (bio-oil) by converting oxygenated compounds and large-molecule species. In this review, these catalysts are categorized in different families and a systematic evaluation of the catalyst effects on pyrolysis products and their characteristics is carried out with respect to the scale of the experimental setup. Among these catalysts, microporous zeolites are considered as most promising in terms of performance and the potential to tailor the desired bio-oil properties. More specifically, the prominent advantages of zeolites include efficient deoxygenation and molecular weight reduction of the resultant bio-oil, while the main drawbacks are decreases in the yield of bio-oil’s organic phase and catalyst deactivation by coke deposition. In addition to the zeolite-based catalysts, other catalysts including mesoporous aluminosilicates, a widely-applied class of catalysts used for deoxygenation of bio-oil as well as alkaline compounds are also reviewed and discussed herein. The research on the latter has not been extensive but the preliminary results have revealed their potential for deoxygenation of bio-oil, production of hydrocarbons, and reduction of undesired compounds. Nevertheless, these catalysts need to be further investigated systematically. Overall, further development of dedicated catalysts for selective deoxygenation and cracking of bio-oil would be essential for scaling up the existing pyrolysis technologies to achieve commercial production of biofuels through pyrolysis.

Graphical Abstract

An overview of catalysts in biomass pyrolysis for production of biofuels

Highlights

  • Performance of widely used catalysts for online catalytic upgrading of bio-oil is systematically reviewed and compared with respect to the scale of application, i.e., analytical, bench, and pilot scale.
  • Criteria for selection of catalyst for production of bio-oil have been comprehensively outlined.
  • Effect of catalysts on chemical composition of bio-oil is reviewed and discussed in detail.
  • Demonstration scale FCC type process appears to have potentialsfor scale up for commercial production.

Keywords


 

On the cover


Catalytic pyrolysis of biomass could be a cost-competitive route for biofuels production. To achieve that, development of dedicated catalysts for selective deoxygenation and cracking of bio-oil would be essential. Such breakthrough catalysts could pave the way for scaling up the existing pyrolysis technologies to achieve commercial production of biofuels through pyrolysis. In this issue of Biofuel Research Journal, Dr. Ali Imran (University of Twente & King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) and his coauthrs take us through the details of various catalysts developed with unique properties for enhanced formation of desirable compounds by pyrolysis. They emphasize that the way forward is to develop more dedicated catalysts suitable for industrial scale operations. Cover art by BiofuelResJ.

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