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Guayule (Parthenium argentatum) pyrolysis biorefining: Fuels and chemicals contributed from guayule leaves via tail gas reactive pyrolysis

Akwasi A. Boateng, Yaseen Elkasabi, Charles A. Mullen
Fuel 2016 v.163 pp. 240-247
Hevea, Parthenium argentatum, bagasse, biofuels, biomass, biorefining, chemical compounds, feedstocks, gases, guayule, intermediate product, latex, leaves, nitrogen content, plant proteins, pyrolysis, resins, rubber, rubber industry, shrubs, supply chain, synergism, synthesis, tires, Southwestern United States
Guayule (Parthenium argentatum), a woody desert shrub cultivated in the southwestern United States, is a source of natural rubber and organic resins that promises to revolutionize the tire and rubber industry. Some 20,000 kg ha(-1) yr(-1) is reported to be harvested worldwide and expected to grow due to renewed interest in guayule to replace imported Hevea rubber. We have recently reported the use of guayule bagasse, the residual biomass after latex extraction, as feedstock in a pyrolysis process that employs a reactive gas environment to formulate a special intermediate bio-oil product that is easily distillable and readily synthesized to hydrocarbon (drop-in) fuels (Boateng et al., 2015). This submission reports on the use of the same pyrolysis process for the leaves of the guayule plant and the array of fuels and chemicals that the leaves can contribute to a co-located guayule biorefinery at a latex plant that could utilize the entire biomass residue value chain. The composition of the guayule leaves is different from the bagasse, with the main differences being lower resin content along with higher ash (>16 wt%) and higher nitrogen (2.6 wt%, dry ash free, daf) contents resulting from the higher concentration of the plant proteins (16.4 wt% (daf)). Since the former two components have exhibited a drastic influence on pyrolysis product distribution in the past, it was incumbent upon us to explore whether the resin content would provide additional synergistic effects and influence product selectivity pathways to bio-based chemicals. We found that the combined effect of the tail gas reactive pyrolysis process, the proteinaceous nature of the guayule leaf and resin combine to create a complex mechanism that results in an interesting bio-oil intermediate product from which a slew of fuel and commodity chemical compounds can be synthesized upon mild upgrading.