110th Anniversary: Microkinetic Modeling of the Vapor Phase Upgrading of Biomass-Derived Oxygenates

David Robichaud, Lauren Dellon, Chun-Yi Sung, Linda Broadbelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus Citations


Bio-oil produced from fast pyrolysis of biomass is a complex mixture of more than 200 compounds, including oxygenates and acids. As these species are highly undesirable in fuels, catalytic upgrading of biomass pyrolysis product vapors, also known as catalytic fast pyrolysis, is performed to upgrade the vapors to valuable fuels and chemicals. This work presents a detailed microkinetic model, composed of elementary steps, of the catalytic upgrading of acetic acid and acetone, two common oxygenates present in bio-oil. An automated network generator was utilized to construct a reaction network composed of 580 unique species and 2160 unique reactions. The kinetic parameters for each reaction in the network were estimated using transition state theory, the Evans-Polanyi relationship, and thermodynamic data. The resulting mechanistic model is able to describe experimental data presented in the literature for the transformation of acetic acid and acetone on HZSM-5 in a fixed-bed reactor, which is modeled as a plug-flow reactor. Additionally, the model solutions reveal vital information regarding the mechanism by which acetic acid and acetone are upgraded to valuable fuels and chemicals. In the first phase of the mechanism, acetic acid is converted to acetone via acylium ion addition to acetic acid; this is followed by decarboxylation of acetoacetic acid. The second phase is dominated by the self-aldol condensation of acetone, which is shown to occur predominantly through the keto form of acetone rather than the enol form, and subsequent deoxygenation reactions leading to olefins and aromatics. Finally, net rate analysis shows that aromatics are primarily formed via a pathway including aldol condensation of mesityl oxide, whereas olefins are produced from the addition of isobutene and subsequent cracking.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)15173-15189
Number of pages17
JournalIndustrial and Engineering Chemistry Research
Issue number33
StatePublished - 2019

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-74855


  • bio-oil
  • biomass
  • microkinetic model
  • pyrolysis


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