Thermochemical recycling of tall oil pitch in a dual fluidized bed
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2023

Crude tall oil is a by-product obtained from the manufacture of chemical wood pulp. The residue obtained after the distillation of this product is known as tall oil pitch (TOP). This complex fraction is a highly viscous liquid that consists mainly of free fatty acids, fatty acids derivatives, rosin acids and additives. Given its complex composition, it is commonly used as fuel for heat production. In this work, steam cracking is proposed as an alternative treatment for this residue. Steam cracking can convert TOP into a valuable product gas that can be used in different applications including the production of green chemicals, moving towards a carbon circular economy. The experimental tests were performed in the Chalmers pilot scale Dual Fluidized Bed, consisting of a steam cracker and a combustor. For these experiments, the thermochemical decomposition of 150–175 kg/h TOP was performed at the steam cracker at two different temperatures (775 and 825 °C) to evaluate the influence of this parameter on the obtained products. Wood pellets were also tested as reference material for the highest temperature. The distribution of the obtained products was analysed. Results show that TOP can be regarded as a by-product instead of a residue and used as feedstock for the recovery of chemical building blocks and syngas via thermochemical recycling. Between 40 and 50 % of the carbon present in the fuel is kept in the permanent gases, while about 20 % is in aromatic hydrocarbons. Compared to biomass, the aromatics yield obtained for TOP is much higher (190 g/kg for TOP and 13 g/kg for biomass). Among the species found, benzene, toluene and xylene, represent between 62 and 72 % of the total measured aromatics. Regarding the gas fraction, the production of valuable light hydrocarbons (such as ethylene and propylene) is more pronounced in the TOP residue than in the biomass. In addition, an energy balance over the system was estimated and showed that TOP thermochemical recycling can be self-sustained in a Dual Fluidized Bed if the non-valuable products are combusted. The results obtained in this work indicate that this TOP could be an appealing option to consider as a source of biorefinery revenue leading to the circular use of waste.

Fluidized bed

Tall oil pitch

Thermochemical recycling

Steam cracking

Carbon recycling


Isabel Cañete Vela

Chalmers, Rymd-, geo- och miljövetenskap, Energiteknik

Judith González Arias

Chalmers, Rymd-, geo- och miljövetenskap, Energiteknik

Teresa Berdugo Vilches

Chalmers, Rymd-, geo- och miljövetenskap, Energiteknik

Martin Seemann

Chalmers, Rymd-, geo- och miljövetenskap, Energiteknik

Henrik Thunman

Chalmers, Rymd-, geo- och miljövetenskap, Energiteknik


0016-2361 (ISSN)

Vol. 340 127596


Kemiska processer

Annan naturresursteknik




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