fractional condensation
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The quality of biocrudes from fast pyrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass can be improved by optimizing the downstream condensation systems to separate and concentrate selected classes of compounds, thus operating different technological solutions and condensation temperatures in multiple condensation stages. Scientific literature reports that fractional condensation can be deployed as an effective and relatively affordable step in fast pyrolysis. It consists in a controlled multiple condensation approach, which aims at the separated collection of classes of compounds that can be further upgraded to bio-derived chemicals through downstream treatments. In this study, fractional condensation has been applied to a fast pyrolysis reactor of 1 kg h-1 feed, connected to two different condensation units: one composed by a series of two spray condensers and an intensive cooler; a second by an electrostatic precipitator and an intensive cooler too. Fast pyrolysis of pinewood was conducted in a bubbling fluidized bed reactor at 500 °C, while condensable vapours were collected by an interchangeable series of condensers. Using the first configuration, high boiling point compounds – such as sugars and lignin-derived oligomers – were condensed at higher temperatures in the first stage (100 – 170 °C), while water soluble lighter compounds and most of the water were condensed at lower temperatures and so largely removed from the bio-oil. In the first two condensing stages, the bio-oil water content remained below 7 wt % (resulting in 20 MJ kg-1 of energy content) maintaining about 43% of the liquid yield, compared to the 55% of the single step condensation runs. The work thus generated promising results, confirming the interest on upscaling the fractional condensation approach to full scale biorefinering.

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