Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) converts biomass into a crude bio-oil by thermally and hydrolytically decomposing the biomacromolecules into smaller compounds. The crude bio-oil, or biocrude, is an energy dense product that can potentially be used as a substitute for petroleum crudes. Liquefaction also produces gases, solids, and water-soluble compounds that can be converted to obtain valuable chemical species or can be used as energy vectors. The process is usually performed in water at 250°C–370°C and under pressures of 4–22 MPa: depending on the adopted pressure and temperature the process can be carried out in sub-critical or super-critical conditions. In the conditions reached in hydrothermal reactors, water changes its properties and acts as a catalyst for the biomass decomposition reactions. One of the main advantages of this process is that the energy expensive biomass-drying step, required in all the thermochemical processes, is not necessary, allowing the use of biomass with high moisture content such as microalgae or olive residue and grape mark.
In this work, the feasibility of a hydrothermal process conducted under sub-critical conditions to obtain a bio-oil from the residue of olive oil production is investigated. The experimental tests were performed at 320°C and about 13 MPa, using a biomass to water weight ratio of 1:5. The influence of two different catalysts on the bio-oil yield and quality was investigated: CaO and a zeolite (faujasite-Na). CaO allows the increase of bio-oil yields, while the selected zeolite enhances the deoxygenation reactions, thus improving the bio-oil quality in terms of heating value.
Hydrothermal liquefaction; biomass; olive residue
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