Thermal Conversion Characteristics of Molasses

Meheretu Jaleta Dirbeba*, Anders Brink, Daniel Lindberg, Mikko Hupa, Leena Hupa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Agroindustrial biomass residues are considered potential feedstocks for renewable fuels and chemical production through processes such as thermal conversion. In this regard, thermal conversion characteristics of molasses, a byproduct from sugar production, have not been investigated. In this study, thermal conversion properties of molasses at temperatures of 700-900 °C have been studied using a single-particle reactor. Fuel swelling, combustion times, CO gas yields and gasification reactivities, and NO emissions and release of K and Cl during combustion and gasification were the thermal conversion characteristics of the molasses studied. In addition, the melting behavior of molasses ash produced at 500 °C was assessed using FactSage thermodynamic modeling and differential scanning calorimetry-thermogravimetric analysis measurements. Results of the molasses thermal conversion properties were compared with those of vinasse and black liquor samples from the integrated sugar-ethanol mill and soda pulping of hardwood, respectively. The results show that the molasses droplets had the least swelling tendency and the longest combustion time in the temperature range used, suggesting a lower conversion rate of molasses in an industrial boiler than the vinasse and black liquor. Moreover, at temperatures relevant for industrial gasification processes, that is, ≥800 °C, the gasification rates of molasses were lower than those of the vinasse and black liquor, probably owing to the lower total concentration of catalytic alkali and alkaline earth metals in the molasses. The release of K and Cl to a high degree from molasses during combustion and gasification and the low melting temperature of molasses ash make it a challenging fuel to utilize using the current thermal conversion technologies. Nevertheless, a black liquor recovery boiler type with a simpler (or an oxidizing) lower furnace than that of a black liquor recovery boiler and an entrained flow gasifier of the type demonstrated for black liquor may be potential options for the production of energy and recovery of inorganic chemicals from molasses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21631-21645
Number of pages15
JournalACS Omega
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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