(621db) Invasive Species Biomass Conversion through Torrefaction and Pyrolysis for Energy and Biochar

Authors: 
Salazar, A., New Mexico State University
Brewer, C. E., New Mexico State University

Russian Thistle (Salsola tragus), which turns into “tumbleweed” when it dries, is an invasive species and poses a threat to surrounding native vegetation and ecosystems. In addition to competing with native plants for water and nutrients, tumbleweed creates fire and traffic hazards, dramatically reduces crop yields, promotes wind erosion of soil, and causes allergies when flowering. There have been numerous control measures tested but these have yet to give satisfactory results. Other invasive species that continue to cause problem in the drought-plagued western U.S. include Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) and salt cedar (Tamarix spp.).

In this study, we explore the use of slow pyrolysis and torrefaction to convert invasive species biomass to biochar and/or a stable, friable solid fuel that is suitable for co-firing with coal. We compare different torrefaction and pyrolysis conditions with respect to product physical and chemical properties, reaction complexity, and feasibility for implementation. The goal of this research is to provide a financial return for invasive species collection and removal.