Chemical changes in biomass during torrefaction

Tooran Khazraie Shoulaifar

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


    Torrefaction is moderate thermal treatment (~200-300 °C) of biomass in an inert atmosphere. The torrefied fuel offers advantages to traditional biomass, such as higher heating value, reduced hydrophilic nature, increased its resistance to biological decay, and improved grindability. These factors could, for instance, lead to better handling and storage of biomass and increased use of biomass in pulverized combustors. In this work, we look at several aspects of changes in the biomass during torrefaction. We investigate the fate of carboxylic groups during torrefaction and its dependency to equilibrium moisture content. The changes in the wood components including carbohydrates, lignin, extractable materials and ashforming matters are also studied. And at last, the effect of K on torrefaction is investigated and then modeled.In biomass, carboxylic sites are partially responsible for its hydrophilic characteristic. These sites are degraded to varying extents during torrefaction. In this work, methylene blue sorption and potentiometric titration were applied to measure the concentration of carboxylic groups in torrefied spruce wood. The results from both methods were applicable and the values agreed well. A decrease in the equilibrium moisture content at different humidity was also measured for the torrefied wood samples, which is in good agreement with the decrease in carboxylic group contents. Thus, both methods offer a means of directly measuring the decomposition of carboxylic groups in biomass during torrefaction as a valuable parameter in evaluating the extent of torrefaction. This provides new information to the chemical changes occurring during torrefaction.The effect of torrefaction temperature on the chemistry of birch wood was investigated. The samples were from a pilot plant at Energy research Center of the Netherlands (ECN). And in that way they were representative of industrially produced samples. Sugar analysis was applied to analyze the hemicellulose and cellulose content during torrefaction. The results show a significant degradation of hemicellulose already at 240 °C, while cellulose degradation becomes significant above 270 °C torrefaction. Several methods including Klason lignin method, solid state NMR and Py-GC-MS analyses were applied to measure the changes in lignin during torrefaction. The changes in the ratio of phenyl, guaiacyl and syringyl units show that lignin degrades already at 240 °C to a small extent. To investigate the changes in the extractives from acetone extraction during torrefaction, gravimetric method, HP-SEC and GC-FID followed by GC-MS analysis were performed. The content of acetone-extractable material increases already at 240 °C torrefaction through the degradation of carbohydrate and lignin. The molecular weight of the acetone-extractable material decreases with increasing the torrefaction temperature. The formation of some valuable materials like syringaresinol or vanillin is also observed which is important from biorefinery perspective.To investigate the change in the chemical association of ash-forming elements in birch wood during torrefaction, chemical fractionation was performed on the original and torrefied birch samples. These results give a first understanding of the changes in the association of ashforming elements during torrefaction. The most significant changes can be seen in the distribution of calcium, magnesium and manganese, with some change in water solubility seen in potassium. These changes may in part be due to the destruction of carboxylic groups. In addition to some changes in water and acid solubility of phosphorous, a clear decrease in the concentration of both chlorine and sulfur was observed. This would be a significant additional benefit for the combustion of torrefied biomass.Another objective of this work is studying the impact of organically bound K, Na, Ca and Mn on mass loss of biomass during torrefaction. These elements were of interest because they have been shown to be catalytically active in solid fuels during pyrolysis and/or gasification. The biomasses were first acid washed to remove the ash-forming matters and then organic sites were doped with K, Na, Ca or Mn. The results show that K and Na bound to organic sites can significantly increase the mass loss during torrefaction. It is also seen that Mn bound to organic sites increases the mass loss and Ca addition does not influence the mass loss rate on torrefaction. This increase in mass loss during torrefaction with alkali addition is unlike what has been found in the case of pyrolysis where alkali addition resulted in a reduced mass loss. These results are important for the future operation of torrefaction plants, which will likely be designed to handle various biomasses with significantly different contents of K. The results imply that shorter retention times are possible for high K-containing biomasses.The mass loss of spruce wood with different content of K was modeled using a two-step reaction model based on four kinetic rate constants. The results show that it is possible to model the mass loss of spruce wood doped with different levels of K using the same activation energies but different pre-exponential factors for the rate constants. Three of the pre-exponential factors increased linearly with increasing K content, while one of the preexponential factors decreased with increasing K content. Therefore, a new torrefaction model was formulated using the hemicellulose and cellulose content and K content. The new torrefaction model was validated against the mass loss during the torrefaction of aspen, miscanthus, straw and bark. There is good agreement between the model and the experimental data for the other biomasses, except bark. For bark, the mass loss of acetone extractable material is also needed to be taken into account. The new model can describe the kinetics of mass loss during torrefaction of different types of biomass. This is important for considering fuel flexibility in torrefaction plants.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Print ISBNs978-952-12-3334-0
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-12-3335-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

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