Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Renewable diesel blendstocks produced by hydrothermal liquefaction of wet biowaste

Abstract

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.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Distillation of SDP- and swine manure-derived biocrude oil.
Fig. 2: Upgrading of SDP distillates.
Fig. 3: Power generations and pollutant emissions under all diesel engine test conditions.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.

References

  1. 1.

    Database of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2016); http://faostat3.fao.org/home/E

  2. 2.

    Biofuels and Bioproducts from Wet and Gaseous Waste Streams: Challenges and Opportunities (USDOE, EERE Publication and Product Library, 2017).

  3. 3.

    Lardon, L., Hélias, A., Sialve, B., Steyer, J.-P. & Bernard, O. Life-cycle assessment of biodiesel production from microalgae. Environ. Sci. Technol. 43, 6475–6481 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Xu, L., Brilman, D. W. F., Withag, J. A. M., Brem, G. & Kersten, S. Assessment of a dry and a wet route for the production of biofuels from microalgae: energy balance analysis. Bioresour. Technol. 102, 5113–5122 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Déniel, M., Haarlemmer, G., Roubaud, A., Weiss-Hortala, E. & Fages, J. Energy valorisation of food processing residues and model compounds by hydrothermal liquefaction. Renew. Sustain. Energ. Rev. 54, 1632–1652 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Bank, T. W. What a Waste’ report shows alarming rise in amount, costs of garbage. The World Bank http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/06/06/report-shows-alarming-rise-in-amount-costs-ofgarbage (2012).

  7. 7.

    Van Minh, H. & Nguyen-Viet, H. Economic aspects of sanitation in developing countries. Environ. Health Insights 5, 63–70 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    OECD Studies on Water Meeting the Water Reform Challenge (OECD Publishing, 2012).

  9. 9.

    Peterson, A. A. et al. Thermochemical biofuel production in hydrothermal media: a review of sub-and supercritical water technologies. Energy Environ. Sci. 1, 32–65 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Yu, G. Hydrothermal Liquefaction of Low-Lipid Microalgae to Produce Bio-Crude Oil. PhD thesis, Univ. Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2012).

  11. 11.

    He, B., Zhang, Y., Funk, T. L., Riskowski, G. L. & Yin, Y. Thermochemical conversion of swine manure: an alternative process for waste treatment and renewable energy production. Trans. ASAE 43, 1827–1833 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Chen, W.-T. et al. Co-liquefaction of swine manure and mixed-culture algal biomass from a wastewater treatment system to produce bio-crude oil. Appl. Energy 128, 209–216 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Chen, W.-T. et al. Hydrothermal liquefaction of mixed-culture algal biomass from wastewater treatment system into bio-crude oil. Bioresour. Technol. 152, 130–139 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    He, B., Zhang, Y., Yin, Y., Funk, T. L. & Riskowski, G. L. Operating temperature and retention time effects on the thermochemical conversion process of swine manure. Trans. ASAE 43, 1821–1825 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Yu, G., Zhang, Y. H., Schideman, L., Funk, T. & Wang, Z. C. Distributions of carbon and nitrogen in the products from hydrothermal liquefaction of low-lipid microalgae. Energy Environ. Sci. 4, 4587–4595 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Gai, C., Zhang, Y., Chen, W.-T., Zhang, P. & Dong, Y. Energy and nutrient recovery efficiencies in biocrude oil produced via hydrothermal liquefaction of Chlorella pyrenoidosa. RSC Adv. 4, 16958–16967 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions And Sinks, 1990–2015 (US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation, 2017).

  18. 18.

    Diesel Fuel Explained: Use of Diesel (USEIA, 2018); http://www.eia.gov/Energyexplained/index.cfm?page=diesel_use

  19. 19.

    Cole, A. et al. From macroalgae to liquid fuel via waste-water remediation, hydrothermal upgrading, carbon dioxide hydrogenation and hydrotreating. Energy Environ. Sci. 9, 1828–1840 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Chen, W.-T. Upgrading Hydrothermal Liquefaction Biocrude Oil from Wet Biowaste into Transportation Fuel. PhD thesis, Univ. Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2017).

  21. 21.

    Lee, T. H., Lin, Y., Meng, X., Li, Y. & Nithyanandan, K. Combustion Characteristics of Acetone, Butanol, and Ethanol (Abe) Blended with Diesel in a Compression-ignition Engine SAE Technical Paper 2016-01-0884 (SAE, 2016); https://doi.org/10.4271/2016-01-0884

  22. 22.

    Hoffmann, J., Jensen, C. U. & Rosendahl, L. A. Co-processing potential of HTL bio-crude at petroleum refineries—Part 1: fractional distillation and characterization. Fuel 165, 526–535 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Jones, S. B. et al. Process Design and Economics for the Conversion of Algal Biomass to Hydrocarbons: Whole Algae Hydrothermal Liquefaction and Upgrading (US Department of Energy, OSTI, 2014); https://doi.org/10.2172/1126336

  24. 24.

    Tzanetis, K. F., Posada, J. A. & Ramirez, A. Analysis of biomass hydrothermal liquefaction and biocrude-oil upgrading for renewable jet fuel production: the impact of reaction conditions on production costs and GHG emissions performance. Renew. Energ. 113, 1388–1398 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Zhang, J., Chen, W.-T., Zhang, P., Luo, Z. & Zhang, Y. Hydrothermal liquefaction of Chlorella pyrenoidosa in sub- and supercritical ethanol with heterogeneous catalysts. Bioresour. Technol. 133, 389–397 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Duan, P. & Savage, P. E. Catalytic treatment of crude algal bio-oil in supercritical water: optimization studies. Energy Environ. Sci. 4, 1447–1456 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Elliott, D. C. et al. Process development for hydrothermal liquefaction of algae feedstocks in a continuous-flow reactor. Algal Res. 2, 445–454 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Zhang, Y. & Chen, W. T. in Direct Thermochemical Liquefaction for Energy Applications (ed. Rosendahl, L.) Ch. 5 (Elsevier, Duxford, 2018).

  29. 29.

    Ocfemia, K., Zhang, Y. & Funk, T. Hydrothermal processing of swine manure to oil using a continuous reactor system: effects of operating parameters on oil yield and quality. Trans. ASABE 49, 1897–1904 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Ikura, M., Kouchachvili, L. & Caravaggio, G. Production of biodiesel from waste fat and grease. In Proc. World Scientific and Engineering Academy and Society (WSEAS) International Conference on Renewable Energy Sources (eds Helmis, C. & Celikyay, S.) 25–30 (WSEAS, 2007).

  31. 31.

    Lu, Q., Li, W.-Z. & Zhu, X.-F. Overview of fuel properties of biomass fast pyrolysis oils. Energy Convers. Manag. 50, 1376–1383 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Haynes, W. M. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 97th edn (CRC Press, Boca Raton, 2016).

  33. 33.

    Colket, M. et al. Development of an experimental database and kinetic models for surrogate jet fuels. In 45th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit 8–11 (Aerospace Research Council, 2007); https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2008-972

  34. 34.

    Collins, C. D. In Phytoremediation (ed. Willey, N.) 99–108 (Humana Press, New York, 2007).

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Annual Book of ASTM Standards D7467 (ASTM, 2015).

  36. 36.

    Canakci, M. & Van Gerpen, J. Biodiesel production from oils and fats with high free fatty acids. Trans. ASAE 44, 1429 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Naik, M., Meher, L., Naik, S. & Das, L. Production of biodiesel from high free fatty acid Karanja (Pongamia pinnata) oil. Biomass Bioenergy 32, 354–357 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Moser, B. R. & Vaughn, S. F. Evaluation of alkyl esters from Camelina sativa oil as biodiesel and as blend components in ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel. Bioresour. Technol. 101, 646–653 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Ejim, C., Fleck, B. & Amirfazli, A. Analytical study for atomization of biodiesels and their blends in a typical injector: surface tension and viscosity effects. Fuel 86, 1534–1544 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Ghosh, P. & Jaffe, S. B. Detailed composition-based model for predicting the cetane number of diesel fuels. Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 45, 346–351 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Demirbas, A., Alidrisi, H. & Balubaid, M. A. API gravity, sulfur content, and desulfurization of crude oil. Petrol. Sci. Technol. 33, 93–101 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Heywood, J. Internal Combustion Engine Fundamentals (McGraw-Hill Education, New York, 1988).

  43. 43.

    Zhou, Y., Schideman, L., Yu, G. & Zhang, Y. A synergistic combination of algal wastewater treatment and hydrothermal biofuel production maximized by nutrient and carbon recycling. Energy Environ. Sci. 6, 3765–3779 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Nabavi-Pelesaraei, A., Bayat, R., Hosseinzadeh-Bandbafha, H., Afrasyabi, H. & Chau, K.-w. Modeling of energy consumption and environmental life cycle assessment for incineration and landfill systems of municipal solid waste management—a case study in Tehran Metropolis of Iran. J. Clean. Prod. 148, 427–440 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Opatokun, S. A., Lopez-Sabiron, A., Ferreira, G. & Strezov, V. Life cycle analysis of energy production from food waste through anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis and integrated energy system. Sustainability 9, 1804 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Furuholt, E. Life cycle assessment of gasoline and diesel. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 14, 251–263 (1995).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Wang, Z. Reaction Mechanisms of Hydrothermal Liquefaction of Model Compounds and Biowaste Feedstocks. PhD thesis, Univ. Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2011).

  48. 48.

    Ocfemia, K., Zhang, Y. & Funk, T. Hydrothermal processing of swine manure into oil using a continuous reactor system: development and testing. Trans. ASAE 49, 533–541 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Annual Book of ASTM Standards D86-15 (ASTM, 2015).

  50. 50.

    Cheng, D., Wang, L., Shahbazi, A., Xiu, S. & Zhang, B. Characterization of the physical and chemical properties of the distillate fractions of crude bio-oil produced by the glycerol-assisted liquefaction of swine manure. Fuel 130, 251–256 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Leung, D. Y., Wu, X. & Leung, M. A review on biodiesel production using catalyzed transesterification. Appl. Energy 87, 1083–1095 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Lee, T. H. et al. Experimental investigation of a diesel engine fuelled with acetone-butanol-ethanol/diesel blends. In ASME 2015 Internal Combustion Engine Division Fall Technical Conference V001T002A015 (ASME, 2015); https://doi.org/10.1115/icef2015-1148

  53. 53.

    Dong, R. et al. Product distribution and implication of hydrothermal conversion of swine manure at low temperatures. Trans. ASABE 52, 1239–1248 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Liu, H., Lee, C.-fF., Huo, M. & Yao, M. Combustion characteristics and soot distributions of neat butanol and neat soybean biodiesel. Energy Fuels 25, 3192–3203 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

W.-T.C. designed and conducted experiments for distillation and esterification, analysed results from distillation, esterification, fuel specification and engine tests and wrote the manuscript. Y.Z. designed and supervised the overall project and contributed to data analysis and writing of the manuscript. T.L. and C.-F.L. designed and performed engine tests and contributed to experiments about engine tests and their data analysis. Z.W. conducted experiments for distillation and fuel specification and assisted in preparing samples for engine tests. B.S. contributed to data analysis and writing of the manuscript. A.L. performed experiments for distillation and fuel specification and contributed to writing of the manuscript. B.K.S. assisted with distillation experimental design and contributed to fuel specification analysis and writing of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yuanhui Zhang.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1–2, Supplementary Tables 1–13, Supplementary References 1–16

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing