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Title: Supercritical water gasification of algae
Author: Cherad, Ramzi
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 5680
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2015
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Diversification of our energy supplies – especially in the transport and electricity generation sectors – is required to meet decarbonisation targets. Algae have been identified as suitable alternative feedstocks for third generation biofuels due to their fast growth rates and non-competitiveness with land for food crops. Hydrothermal processing of algae is an appropriate conversion route as it allows the processing of wet feedstock thus removing the energy penalty of drying. In this study, supercritical water gasification was used for (i) the hydrothermal processing of macroalgae for the production of gaseous fuel – mainly hydrogen and methane – and (ii) the upgrading of the process water from hydrothermal liquefaction of microalgae for hydrogen production for biocrude hydrotreating. The supercritical water gasification (SCWG) of the four macroalgae species investigated (Saccharina latissima, Laminaria digitata, Laminaria hyperborea, and Alaria esculenta) produced a gas that mainly consisted of hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide. Non-catalytic SCWG resulted in hydrogen yields of 3.3-4.2 mol/kg macroalgae and methane yields of 1.6-3.3 mol/kg macroalgae. Catalytic SCWG (using ruthenium) resulted in hydrogen yields of 7.8-10.2 mol/kg macroalgae and methane yields of 4.7-6.4 mol/kg macroalgae. The yield of hydrogen was approximately three times higher when using sodium hydroxide as catalyst (16.3 mol H2 / kg macroalgae) compared to non-catalysed SCWG of L. hyperborea (5.18 mol H2 / kg macroalgae). The energy recovery (an expression of how much chemical energy of the feedstock is recovered in the desired product following hydrothermal processing) was 83% when sodium hydroxide was used as a catalyst, compared to 52% for the non-catalytic SCWG of L. hyperborea. The yield of methane was approximately 2.5 times higher (9.0 mol CH4 kg 1macroalgae) when using ruthenium catalyst compared to the non-catalysed experiment (3.36 mol CH4 / kg macroalgae) and the energy recovery increased by 22% to 74%. The selectivity of methane or hydrogen production during the SCWG of macroalgae can be controlled using ruthenium or sodium hydroxide respectively. Longer hold times and increased reaction temperature favoured methane production when using ruthenium. An increase in catalyst loading had no significant effect on the methane yield. Higher hydrogen yields were obtained through using higher concentrations of sodium hydroxide, lower algal feed concentration and shorter hold times (30 min). Increasing reaction times ( > 30 min) with a base catalyst (sodium hydroxide) decreased the hydrogen yield. Overall energy recovery was highest at the lowest feed concentrations; 90.5% using ruthenium and 111% using sodium hydroxide. The process waters from the hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) of microalgae (Chlorella, Pseudochoricystis, and Spirulina) were gasified under supercritical water conditions to maximise hydrogen production. Hydrogen yields ranged from 0.18-0.29 g H2 / g biocrude from SCWG of the process water of HTL along with near complete gasification of the organics (~98%). Compared to the hydrogen requirements for hydrotreating algal biocrude (~0.05 g H2 / g biocrude), excess hydrogen can be produced from upgrading the process water through SCWG. The results indicate that process waters following SCWG are still rich in nutrients that can be recycled for algal cultivation.
Supervisor: Ross, A. B. ; Williams, P. T. Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available