Full characterization of compounds obtained from fractional distillation and upgrading of a HTL biocrude
Biocrude from hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass provides a sustainable source from which to produce chemicals and fuels. However, just as for fossil crude, the chemical complexity of the biocrude impedes the characterization and hence identification of market potentials for both biocrude and individual fractions. Here, we reveal how fractional distillation of a biocrude can leverage biocrude characterization beyond state-of-the-art and uncover the full biocrude potential. By distillation combined with detailed individual analysis of the distillate fractions and distillation residue, more than 85% of the total biocrude composition is determined. It is demonstrated that a total mass fraction of 48.2% of the biocrude is volatile below 350 °C, comprising mainly value-added marketable ketones, oxygenated aromatics and prospective liquid fuel candidates, which are easily fractionated according to boiling points. Novel, high resolution pyr-GCxGC-MS analysis of the residue indicates a high molecular weight aromatic structure, valuable for bio-materials production or for further processing into fuels. The distillate fractions are mildly hydrotreated to show the fuel and chemical precursor potential of the volatile components. This results in the formation of mainly hydrocarbons and added-value phenolics. This work takes a significant step by going beyond the biocrude as an intermediate bulk energy product and addressing actual applications and pathways to these.