Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Chemical Engineering

Advisor 1

David Shonnard

Committee Member 1

Wen Zhou

Committee Member 2

Tim Eisele


This study investigated the environmental and economic sustainability of liquid hydrocarbon biofuel production via fast pyrolysis of poplar biomass through two pathways: a one-step pathway that converted poplar via fast pyrolysis only, and a twostep pathway that includes a torrefaction step prior to fast pyrolysis. Optimization of these fast pyrolysis-based biofuel processes were investigated through heat integration and alternative uses of the co-product biochar, which can be sold as an energy source to displace coal, soil amendment or processed into activated carbon. The impacts of optimization on the cost of hydrocarbon biofuel production as well as the environmental impacts were investigated through a techno-economic analysis (TEA) and life cycle assessment (LCA), respectively, with two-step and one-step processing compared to fossil fuels. The TEA indicates that a one-step heat integrated pathway with the production of activated carbon has a minimum selling price of $3.23/gallon compared to $5.16/gallon for a two-step heat integrated process with burning of the co-product biochar to displace coal. The LCA indicates that using the displacement analysis approach, a two-step heat integrated pathway had a global warming potential of -102 g CO2 equivalent/MJ biofuel compared to 16 CO2 equivalent/MJ biofuel for the heat integrated one-step pathway.