Processing wet biowaste to create a useful product, a practice called valorization, is environmentally sustainable and has the potential to augment energy production. Biocrude converted from wet biowaste using hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) has comparable heating values to petroleum crude. However, its composition is too complex for use as transportation fuels. Here, we show that distillation combined with esterification can effectively upgrade HTL biocrude oil into diesel blendstock. We demonstrate that the HTL biocrude oil converted from food processing waste and animal manure can be distilled into fractions with similar energy content to that of petroleum diesel. We then reduce the acidity of distillates through esterification to meet the diesel standard. Engine tests performed using 10–20% upgraded distillates blended with diesel show 96–100% power output, 101–102% NOx, 89–91% CO, 92–125% unburned hydrocarbon and 109–115% soot emissions, compared with regular diesel. HTL integrated with distillation and esterification has a higher energy recovery ratio than anaerobic digestion, lipid extraction, HTL combined with hydrotreating and producing diesel from petroleum. This approach realizes the potential of wet biowaste to alleviate petroleum consumption and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.
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We thank USDA, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Snapshot Energy Gift Fund for providing experimental supplies for the research. We are grateful for financial support from the Graduate College of University of Illinois and the Ministry of Education of Taiwan (to W.-T.C.). We thank E. Eves and K. Subedi in the Microanalysis Laboratory (Urbana, IL) for their help on elemental analyses. We also thank A. Ulanov of the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center (Urbana, IL) for help received and discussions on GC–MS analysis. We acknowledge B. Banks from the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (Peoria, IL) for collecting surface tension data. We are grateful for assistance provided by B. Kunwar, T. Burton, K. Nithyanandan, P. Zhang and M. Swoboda during this project. We also thank M.-H. Lai for help setting up and troubleshooting the distillation apparatus.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Chen, WT., Zhang, Y., Lee, T.H. et al. Renewable diesel blendstocks produced by hydrothermal liquefaction of wet biowaste. Nat Sustain 1, 702–710 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0172-3