The depletion of known petroleum reserves necessitates the development of new renewable energy-based solutions as alternatives to petroleum-based transportation fuels. Agricultural and other lignocellulosic biomass, such as oil palm empty fruit bunch (EFB), is abundant in Southeast Asia and has potential as a renewable resource for the production of bio-oil that can subsequently be upgraded or blended with conventional fuels. Fast pyrolysis process is one of the most promising technologies to convert biomass to bio-oil, but its use for the conversion of EFB to bio-oil has not been sufficiently developed. Here, a pyrolysis reactor is designed and built to process up to 10 kg of EFB at a time, using 1% w/w zeolite Y or X as catalyst. The catalyst enables the fast pyrolysis reactor to operate at a lower temperature (320 ºC). The reactor is designed to be fitted into a 20x8x8 feet container that can be attached to a truck, to support the mobility of the apparatus, effectively acting as a self-contained mobile unit that can be moved to different sites of EFB generation. The mobile apparatus consists of the following parts: shredder, grinder, mixer, pyrolysis reactor, condenser, and water chiller. Prior to processing on the mobile apparatus, EFB is pre-treated in NaOH solution to remove the lignin and expose the fibrous cellulose, washed in water, and sun-dried. The EFB is then processed on the mobile apparatus, which includes shredding, grinding, pyrolysis, and condensation. The results show that the pre-treated EFB has an average lignin removal of 50% compared to the untreated EFB. After pyrolysis and condensation, the percentage yield of undesirable phenolic compounds is lower than the hydrocarbon compounds with a yield of ~30% w/w of bio oil.
Biomass renewable energy, fast pyrolysis, empty fruit bunch, bio-oil production, zeolite catalyst