Results of the IEA Bioenergy Round Robin on the Analysis of Heteroatoms in Biomass Liquefaction Oils

A round robin study evaluating the analysis of biomass liquefaction oils (BLOs) from fast pyrolysis and hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) was performed, involving fifteen laboratories in seven countries in order to assess the current status of analytical techniques for the determination of nitrogen, sulfur, and chlorine content in BLOs and evaluate potential differences in origin (i.e. fast pyrolysis vs HTL). The BLOs were produced from a range of feedstocks including pine, mixed softwoods, forest residues, micro-algae, miscanthus, and wheat straw to cover a variety in nitrogen, sulfur, and chlorine content and speciation. Nine samples were distributed, comprised of eight separate BLOs and one blind duplicate produced by five producers. The samples were analyzed for water, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, and chlorine content. No analytical test method was mandated; laboratories were encouraged to utilize whichever method they determined would be most applicable, relying on the existing body of BLO literature as a guide. The results of this round robin study are presented in this paper. The results of the carbon, hydrogen, and water measurements as reference analyses had relative standard deviations (2.9%, 3.5, and 5.6%, respectively) that were comparable to those found in past round robin studies on fast pyrolysis bio-oil. The analysis of nitrogen, sulfur, and chlorine showed higher levels of variability. Laboratories mostly chose the same method for water, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen determination whereas there were a variety of methods chosen for sulfur and chlorine determination. The results suggest that specific analytical methods for the determination of nitrogen, sulfur, and chlorine should be further refined to ensure reproducible and accurate results for BLO analysis due to their importance on emissions, material selection, and catalyst activity.