Valorization of Aqueous Waste Streams from Thermochemical Biorefineries

Mark Nimlos, Nolan Wilson, Abhijit Dutta, Brenna Pleitner, Calvin Mukarakate, Kimberly Magrini, Joshua Schaidle, William Michener, Gregg Beckham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus Citations


Thermochemical conversion of lignocellulosic biomass is a promising route to produce fuels and oxygenated chemicals and could enable circular carbon utilization. In most thermochemical conversion processes, however, some chemical co-products are lost in aqueous waste streams that are both dilute and heterogeneous. Cost-competitive isolation of these chemical co-products is challenging due to the high-purity requirements typically necessary for bulk chemical production. Here, we demonstrate the production and isolation of two biomass-derived monomers, phenol and catechol, from a comprehensively characterized aqueous waste stream generated via catalytic fast pyrolysis. Specifically, we separate phenol and catechol to 97 wt% purity using the industrially relevant processes of liquid-liquid extraction, distillation, and recrystallization. Techno-economic analysis predicts that a mixed phenolics stream can be produced from the waste stream at a minimum selling price of $1.06 kg-1. Overall, this work demonstrates an approach to high-purity oxygenated aromatic compounds that is potentially economically feasible and technically achievable which increases the atom efficiency of thermochemical conversion through waste stream valorization.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4217-4230
Number of pages14
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-74540


  • biomass fuels
  • biorefineries
  • carbon utilization
  • lignocellulosic biomass
  • thermochemical conversion


Dive into the research topics of 'Valorization of Aqueous Waste Streams from Thermochemical Biorefineries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this