Multiscale Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis of Grindelia Reveals Opportunities for Generating Low Oxygen Content Bio-Oils from Drought Tolerant Biomass

Phillip Cross, Kristiina Iisa, Anh To, Mark Nimlos, Danny Carpenter, Jesse Mayer, John Crushman, Bishnu Neupane, Glenn Miller, Sushil Adhikari, Calvin Mukarakate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Grindelia squarrosa (curlycup gumweed) biomass possesses unique biochemistry, cell wall composition, and leaf architecture tailored for prolific growth in arid and semiarid climates. Most notably, this plant has developed high levels of extractable resins that have high effective H/Ceff ratios ((mol H - 2 × mol O)/mol C), which is hypothesized to lead to low coke formation during catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) over the ZSM-5 catalyst. In microscale experiments with high ZSM-5 loadings (biomass-to-catalyst mass ratio (B/C) ∼0.1), in situ CFP generated high yields of aromatic hydrocarbons (30% carbon yield) while ex situ CFP favored aliphatic hydrocarbons (25% carbon yield). The difference between the two configurations was attributed to the constant catalyst temperature during ex situ CFP. Deactivation leading to partially deoxygenated vapor products occurred rapidly until B/C ≤ 0.5 by the adsorption of organic species blocking access to acid sites inside the micropores of the catalyst. This was followed by more gradual deactivation leading to primary vapor breakthrough, which we attribute to coke formation on acid sites on the external surface of ZSM-5 crystallites. Noncatalytic fast pyrolysis of Grindelia in a bench scale reactor produced oils with oxygen content (18 wt % on dry basis) and carbon yield (33%) comparable to those of CFP of woody biomass. The CFP of Grindelia further reduced the oxygen content to 7 wt % for in situ CFP and 4 wt % for ex situ CFP at B/C of 2-3. The good deoxygenation was attributed to a combination of a high H/Ceff ratio and overall better quality of the pyrolysis vapors that were passed over the ZSM-5 catalyst. The high inorganic content of the Grindelia likely catalyzed pyrolysis to remove oxygenated coke precursors. This integrated CFP study demonstrated that Grindelia could be an important feedstock for generating stabilized noncatalytic and CFP oils for downstream processing into fuels and/or extraction of high-value chemicals. The preprocessing of this feedstock will be required to remove inorganics, which cause an irreversible deactivation of ZSM-5.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)425-434
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-80515


  • biofuels
  • catalytic fast pyrolysis
  • chemicals
  • drought tolerant feedstocks
  • gumweed
  • ZSM-5


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiscale Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis of Grindelia Reveals Opportunities for Generating Low Oxygen Content Bio-Oils from Drought Tolerant Biomass'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this