Main content area

Impact of Harvest Time and Cultivar on Conversion of Switchgrass to Bio-oils Via Fast Pyrolysis

Serapiglia, Michelle J., Mullen, Charles A., Boateng, Akwasi A., Dien, Bruce S., Casler, Michael D.
BioEnergy research 2017 v.10 no.2 pp. 388-399
Panicum virgatum, aromatic compounds, biofuels, biomass, catalysts, cell walls, cellulose, cultivars, distribution (economics), field experimentation, flowering, frost, harvest date, highlands, least squares, lignin, models, near-infrared spectroscopy, potassium, prediction, pyrolysis, winter, zeolites, United States
The study of the effects of harvest time on switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) biomass and bioenergy production reported herein encompasses a large study evaluating the harvest of six switchgrass cultivars grown at three northern US locations over 3 years, harvested at upland peak crop (anthesis), post-frost, and post-winter. Delaying harvest of switchgrass until after frost and until after winter has resulted in decreased yields of switchgrass and reduced amounts of minerals in the biomass. This report examines how changes in biomass composition as a result of varying harvest time and other factors affect the distribution of products formed via fast pyrolysis. A subset (50) of the population (n = 864) was analyzed for fast pyrolysis and catalytic pyrolysis (zeolite catalyst) product yields using a pyrolysis-GC/MS system. The subset was used to build calibrations that were successful in predicting the pyrolysis product yield using near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS), and partial least squares predictive models were applied to the entire sample set. The pyrolysis product yield was significantly affected by the field trial location, year of harvest, cultivar, and harvest time. Delaying harvest time of the switchgrass crop led to greater production of deoxygenated aromatics improving the efficiency of the catalytic fast pyrolysis and bio-oil quality. The changes in the pyrolysis product yield were related to biomass compositional changes, and key relationships between cell wall polymers, potassium concentration in the biomass, and pyrolysis products were identified. The findings show that the loss of minerals in the biomass as harvest time is delayed combined with the greater proportion in cellulose and lignin in the biomass has significant positive influences on conversion through fast pyrolysis.