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Continuous Hydrothermal Liquefaction of Biomass in a Novel Pilot Plant with Heat Recovery and Hydraulic Oscillation

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Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) is regarded as a promising technology for the production of biofuels from biomass and wastes. As such, there is a drive towards continuous-flow processing systems to aid process scale-up and eventually commercialization. The current study presents results from a novel pilot-scale HTL reactor with a feed capacity of up to 100 L/h and a process volume of approximately 20 L. The pilot plant employs a heat exchanger for heat recovery and a novel hydraulic oscillation system to increase the turbulence in the tubular reactor. The energy grass Miscanthus and the microalgae Spirulina, both representing advanced dedicated energy crops, as well as sewage sludge as high-potential waste stream were selected to assess the reactor performance. Biomass slurries with up to 16 wt% dry matter content were successfully processed. The heat recovery of the heat exchanger is found to increase with reactor run time, reaching 80% within 5-6 h of operation. The hydraulic oscillation system is shown to improve mixing and enhance heat transfer. Bio-crudes with average yields of 26 wt%, 33 wt% and 25 wt% were produced from Miscanthus, Spirulina and sewage sludge, respectively. The yields also appeared to increase with reactor run time. Bio-crude from HTL of Spirulina was mainly composed of palmitic acid, glycerol, heptadecane and linolelaidic acid, while biocrude from sewage sludge contained mainly palmitic acid, oleic acid and stearic acid. In contrast, biocrude from HTL of Miscanthus consisted of a large number of different phenolics. An energetic comparison between the three feedstocks revealed a thermal efficiency of 47%, 47% and 33% and energy return on investment (EROI) of 2.8, 3.3 and 0.5 for HTL of Miscanthus, Spirulina and sewage sludge, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2695
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2018

    Research areas

  • bio-crude, biofuel, continuous reactor, energy balance, hydrothermal liquefaction, oscillation

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