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Catalytic Cracking of Tar using BioChar as a Catalyst

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 20 - June 23, 2010  1009863.(doi:10.13031/2013.30003)
Authors:   Ankita Juneja, Sudhagar Mani, Jim Kastner
Keywords:   BioChar, toluene, biomass tar, steam reforming, renewable catalyst.

Tars are defined as higher molecular weight hydrocarbons larger than benzene produced during gasification of biomass into syngas. They pose major problems using syngas for producing power, fuels and chemical products as they condense and corrode metal surfaces and inactivate catalysts. One of the solutions to this problem is to decompose tar compounds using catalysts before the syngas can be used for various applications. The present study was focused on catalytically decomposing tar compounds or a specific tar compound using biochar as a catalyst. Among various tar compounds present in syngas, toluene was one of the least reactive compounds and was considered as a model tar compound in this study. Biochar was produced from pyrolysis of pine bark chips at 950oC and was used as an experimental catalyst. A fixed bed reactor filled with biochar was used to determine the fractional conversion of toluene at various reaction temperatures (600, 700, 800 and 900C) and toluene inlet concentration (1000 - 4600 ppm). The concentration of toluene and decomposed products were analyzed using a gas chromatography with flame ionization detector (GC-FID) and thermal conductivity detector (GC-TCD). The catalytic properties of biochar were determined similar to other catalysts. Kinetic model was determined for toluene conversion to determine the apparent rate constant and apparent activation energy of the reaction. The activation energy of toluene steam reforming over biochar as catalyst was determined to be 81.6KJ/mol. Biochar can be a potential tar cracking catalyst or a supporting matrix in the future that can reduce the cost of current tar cracking catalysts used to clean syngas for liquid fuel production.

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