Microalgae as a renewable fuel source: Fast pyrolysis of Scenedesmussp.

Anne E. Harman-Ware, Tonya Morgan, Michael Wilson, Mark Crocker, Jun Zhang, Kunlei Liu, Jozsef Stork, Seth Debolt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


Herein we report the fast pyrolysis of dried, ground Scenedesmus sp. at two different reactor scales. Pyrolysis was performed at 480°C and 1 bar in both an isothermal spouted bed reactor and a dynamic pyrolysis-GC/MS unit, each with 2s vapor residence times. Bio-oil products were characterized on the basis of GC-MS, simulated distillation GC, elemental analysis, calorific content and total acid number. The ratio of crude oil: char obtained from the spouted bed reactor was 3.76 by weight, the average calorific content of the oil being 18.4MJ/kg. The average total acid number (68mg KOH/g) was lower than typical bio-oil produced via wood pyrolysis. Simulated distillation results indicated that a significant proportion of the oil corresponded to the boiling range typical for heavy gas oil (343°C-524°C). Elemental analysis showed the oil contained an average of 27.6wt.% oxygen and 8.6wt.% nitrogen, the relatively high nitrogen content being a consequence of the high protein content of the algae. According to GC-MS data, the oil consisted of various hydrocarbons as well as oxygenated and nitrogenous species, including indoles, fatty acids and amides. Pyrolysis-GC-MS was also performed on Scenedesmus sp. in order to provide insights into the nature of the primary pyrolysis products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-632
Number of pages8
JournalRenewable Energy
StatePublished - Dec 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under award No. DE-FG36-O8GO88043. However, any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the DOE.


  • Algae
  • Bio-oil
  • Fast pyrolysis
  • Pyrolysis-GC/MS
  • Scenedesmus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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