Impact of Tree Age and Anatomical Fraction on Forest Residue Pyrolysis and Hydrotreating

Daniel Carpenter, Jordan Klinger, Huamin Wang, Kristiina Iisa, Jim Parks, Gavin Wiggins, Brennan Pecha, Matt Wiatrowski, Hao Cai, Longwen Ou

Research output: NRELPoster


Utilization of cost-advantaged biomass and waste resources to produce clean, domestic biofuels will be a key factor in decarbonizing transportation in the United States. This study investigates how the distribution of anatomical fractions (stem wood, bark, needles, branches) from pine forest residues of different ages impacts pyrolysis and hydrotreating processes, including product composition, carbon efficiency, economics, and overall sustainability. Commercially sourced 13- and 23-year-old loblolly pine residues were chosen to represent available resources; whole tree thinnings, and tops and branches from merchantable timber, respectively. Detailed characterization of the residue samples, product distributions, bio-oil, char, and gas characterization data are presented for 13 experiments, including the individual fractions, blends, and air-classified samples to reduce ash content. Pyrolysis mass balances averaged 97 +/- 3%. As expected, bio-oil yields were lower for the bark, needles, and blends with high proportions of these (53-56% dry basis), and highest for the debarked stem wood (67-71% dry basis). Lower yields were attributed to the high ash content of the needles, but also to the high lignin content in the bark (>50%), which is hypothesized to have led to increased char formation during pyrolysis. Higher-oil yield was generally correlated with total volatiles, hydrogen, oxygen, glucan, and mannan; somewhat correlated with xylan and acetyl content; and negatively correlated with total carbon, fixed carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and extractives. Air classification of the residues was effective in reducing ash content (1.5% to 0.64%), extractives (~7% to 2%), and sulfur (0.04% to 0.02%), resulting in a small increase in yield, a significant increase in the GC-detectable proportion of oil (27% to 34%) and a net economic benefit. These experimental results were used to conduct technoeconomic and life cycle analyses, which are also summarized here.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the tcbiomass Conference, 19-21 April 2022, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5100-82628


  • biofuels
  • biomass
  • forest residues
  • pyrolysis


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