Biorefining of pigeon pea: Residue conversion by pyrolysis

Mari Rowena C. Tanquilut, Homer C. Genuino, Erwin Wilbers, Rossana Marie C. Amongo, Delfin C. Suministrado, Kevin F. Yaptenco, Marilyn M. Elauria, Jessie C. Elauria, Hero J. Heeres*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Pyrolysis is an important technology to convert lignocellulosic biomass to a renewable liquid energy carrier known as pyrolysis oil or bio-oil. Herein we report the pyrolysis of pigeon pea wood, a widely available biomass in the Philippines, in a semi-continuous reactor at gram scale. The effects of process conditions such as temperature (400-600 C), nitrogen flow rate (7-15 mL min−1) and particle size of the biomass feed (0.5-1.3 mm) on the product yields were determined. A Box-Behnken three-level, three-factor fractional factorial design was carried out to establish process-product yield relations. Of particular interest is the liquid product (bio-oil), of which the yield was shown to depend on all independent variables in a complex manner. The optimal conditions for highest bio-oil yield (54 wt.% on dry feed intake) were a temperature of 466 C, a nitrogen flow rate of 14 mL min−1 and a particle size of 1.3 mm. Validation of the optimized conditions proved that the average (n = 3) experimental bio-oil yield (52 wt.%) is in good agreement with the predicted value from the model. The properties of product oils were determined using various analytical techniques including gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), gel-permeation chromatography (GPC), nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (13C- and HSQC-NMR) and elemental and proximate analyses. The bio-oils were shown to have low ash content (0.2%), high heating value (29 MJ kg−1) and contain high value-added phenolics compounds (41%, GC peak area) as well as low molecular weight aldehydes and carboxylic acids. GPC analysis indicated the presence of a considerable amount of higher molecular weight compounds. NMR measurements showed that a large proportion of bio-oil contains aliphatic carbons (~60%), likely formed from the decomposition of (hemi)cellulose components, which are abundantly present in the starting pigeon pea wood. Subsequent preliminary scale-up pyrolysis experiments in a fluidized bed reactor (~100 gfeed h−1, 475 C and N2 flow rate of 1.5 L min−1) gave a non-optimized bio-oil yield of 44 wt.%. Further fractionation and/or processing are required to upgrade these bio-oils to biofuels and biobased chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2778
Number of pages19
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2020


  • Bio-oil
  • Lignocellulosic biomass
  • Phenolics
  • Pigeon pea
  • Pyrolysis

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