Main content area

Recovery of creosote from used railroad ties by thermal desorption

Kim, Pyoungchung, Lloyd, Jeff, Kim, Jae-Woo, Abdoulmoumine, Nourredine, Labbé, Nicole
Energy 2016 v.111 pp. 226-236
biomass, carbon, creosote, desorption, gasification, heat treatment, landfills, molecular weight, phenolic compounds, pollutants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pyrolysis, railroads, recycling, temperature, wood, wood quality
Used creosote-treated wood ties were thermally treated between 250 and 350 °C to recover preservative and upgrade the wood to provide an improved quality biomass for thermochemical processes. With thermal treatments ranging from 250 to 300 °C, the amounts of creosote, mostly consisting of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), recovered were from 47 to 79% of total creosote present in the used ties. Thermal treatment at 350 °C recovered 97% of total PAH compounds. Larger amounts of PAHs with higher molecular weights (HMWs) and lower vapor pressures (LVP) were recovered at elevated temperatures. Temperature above 300 °C decomposed the wood matrix, with a mass loss ranging between 50 and 63 wt% and produced large amounts of light organics, anhydrosugars, and phenolic compounds that would contaminate the recovered creosote. Our study concluded that thermal treatment ranging between 275 and 300 °C would be preferred to recover preservative for recycling and improve the wood quality, i.e., high carbon content and caloric value, and low hazardous pollutants (creosote residues) for thermochemical processes such as pyrolysis or gasification. These findings suggest that the proposed approach could be a commercially viable and environmentally beneficial alternative to landfill for used railroad ties.