Fast pyrolysis and nitrogenolysis of biomass and biogenic residues:production of a sustainable slow release fertiliser


The production of agricultural and horticultural products requires the use of nitrogenous fertiliser that can cause pollution of surface and ground water and has a large carbon footprint as it is mainly produced from fossil fuels. The overall objective of this research project was to investigate fast pyrolysis and in-situ nitrogenolysis of biomass and biogenic residues as an alternative route to produce a sustainable solid slow release fertiliser mitigating the above stated problems. A variety of biomasses and biogenic residues were characterized by proximate analysis, ultimate analysis, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and Pyrolysis – Gas chromatography – Mass Spectroscopy (Py–GC–MS) for their potential use as feedstocks using beech wood as a reference material. Beech wood was virtually nitrogen free and therefore suitable as a reference material as added nitrogen can be identified as such while Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) and rape meal had a nitrogen content between 5.5wt.% and 6.1wt.% qualifying them as high nitrogen feedstocks. Fast pyrolysis and in-situ nitrogenolysis experiments were carried out in a continuously fed 1kg/h bubbling fluidized bed reactor at around 500°C quenching the pyrolysis vapours with isoparaffin. In-situ nitrogenolysis experiments were performed by adding ammonia gas to the fast pyrolysis reactor at nominal nitrogen addition rates between 5wt.%C and 20wt.%C based on the dry feedstock’s carbon content basis. Mass balances were established for the processing experiments. The fast pyrolysis and in-situ nitrogenolysis products were characterized by proximate analysis, ultimate analysis and GC– MS. High liquid yields and good mass balance closures of over 92% were obtained. The most suitable nitrogen addition rate for the in-situ nitrogenolysis experiments was determined to be 12wt.%C on dry feedstock carbon content basis. However, only a few nitrogen compounds that were formed during in-situ nitrogenolysis could be identified by GC–MS. A batch reactor process was developed to thermally solidify the fast pyrolysis and in-situ nitrogenolysis liquids of beech wood and Barley DDGS producing a brittle solid product. This was obtained at 150°C with an addition of 2.5wt% char (as catalyst) after a processing time of 1h. The batch reactor was also used for modifying and solidifying fast pyrolysis liquids derived from beech wood by adding urea or ammonium phosphate as post processing nitrogenolysis. The results showed that this type of combined approach was not suitable to produce a slow release fertiliser, because the solid product contained up to 65wt.% of highly water soluble nitrogen compounds that would be released instantly by rain. To complement the processing experiments a comparative study via Py–GC–MS with inert and reactive gas was performed with cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin and beech wood. This revealed that the presence of ammonia gas during analytical pyrolysis did not appear to have any direct impact on the decomposition products of the tested materials. The chromatograms obtained showed almost no differences between inert and ammonia gas experiments indicating that the reaction between ammonia and pyrolysis vapours does not occur instantly. A comparative study via Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy of solidified fast pyrolysis and in-situ nitrogenolysis products showed that there were some alterations in the spectra obtained. A shift in frequencies indicating C=O stretches typically related to the presence of carboxylic acids to C=O stretches related to amides was observed and no double or triple bonded nitrogen was detected. This indicates that organic acids reacted with ammonia and that no potentially harmful or non-biodegradable triple bonded nitrogen compounds were formed. The impact of solid slow release fertiliser (SRF) derived from pyrolysis and in-situ nitrogenolysis products from beech wood and Barley DDGS on microbial life in soils and plant growth was tested in cooperation with Rothamsted Research. The microbial incubation tests indicated that microbes can thrive on the SRFs produced, although some microbial species seem to have a reduced activity at very high concentrations of beech wood and Barley DDGS derived SRF. The plant tests (pot trials) showed that the application of SRF derived from beech wood and barley DDGS had no negative impact on germination or plant growth of rye grass. The fertilizing effect was proven by the dry matter yields in three harvests after 47 days, 89 days and 131 days. The findings of this research indicate that in general a slow release fertiliser can be produced from biomass and biogenic residues by in-situ nitrogenolysis. Nevertheless the findings also show that additional research is necessary to identify which compounds are formed during this process.

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Divisions: College of Engineering & Physical Sciences > School of Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering > Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry
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Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: pyrolysis,slow release fertiliser,residues,biomass,nitrogenolysis
Completed Date: 2013-12-17
Authors: Harms, Allan


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