Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012SD216B

Evaluation of wastewater produced in biomass pyrolysis process

Institute: South Dakota
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2014-03-01
Total Federal Funds: $22,720 Total Non-Federal Funds: $45,250

Principal Investigators: Lin Wei, Todd Trooien

Abstract: Using a catalytic pyrolysis process to convert lignocellulose biomass into drop in fuels for green gasoline, diesel, and/or jet fuels production has been showing promise in the last decade. Depending on the biomass species, reactor types, and operating condition used, however, there will be about 20 60 % of wastewater generated while drop-in fuels are produced. The wastewater may contain organic and inorganic contaminants, such as acetic acids, phenols, alcohols, polyaromatic compounds, ammonia, H2S, chlorides, and traces of platinum group metals (Pt, Pd, Rh, or Ru) depending on the catalysts used. These contaminants may make the wastewater unusable for some purposes. Even after processing for extra value-added products, many of these compounds still may be left behind and resist biological degradation or exert significant toxicity toward the environment. In order to explore effective approaches to make the wastewater usable for still other purposes, the goal of this study is to evaluate the quantity and characterize the wastewater produced in catalytic pyrolysis of various biomass feedstocks. The research will collect wastewater samples from catalytic pyrolysis of corn stover, sawdust, and cordgrass. Three feedstocks and four different operating conditions will be tested. The analysis of inorganic constituents and the metals used in the catalysts (Pt, Pd, Rh, or Ru) in wastewater will be conducted. Selected physical and chemical properties of the wastewater will be analyzed immediately (pH, dissolved oxygen). Additional properties (ammonia, TSS, EC, selected ion concentrations including sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, sulfate, carbonate, and bicarbonate) will be analyzed by the South Dakota Ag Lab. Baseline analyses will be based on the irrigation suite of analyses. Finally, concentrations of the metal(s) used in the catalyst(s) will be measured by the SD Public Health Lab. Based on the results of characterization and analysis of the wastewater, the study will provide useful information and suggestions for renewable energy industries, biomass producers, and/or lawmakers and the research team will search for more external funds for further research.