The intermediate pyrolysis and catalytic steam reforming of brewers spent grain

Asad S.N. Mahmood, John G. Brammer, Andreas Hornung, Andrew Steele, Stephen Poulston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brewers spent grain (BSG) is a widely available feedstock representing approximately 85% of the total by-products generated in the brewing industry. This is currently either disposed of to landfill or used as cattle feed due to its high protein content. BSG has received little or no attention as a potential energy resource, but increasing disposal costs and environmental constraints are now prompting the consideration of this. One possibility for the utilisation of BSG for energy is via intermediate pyrolysis to produce gases, vapours and chars. Intermediate pyrolysis is characterised by indirect heating in the absence of oxygen for short solids residence times of a few minutes, at temperatures of 350-450 °C. In the present work BSG has been characterised by chemical, proximate, ultimate and thermo-gravimetric analysis. Intermediate pyrolysis of BSG at 450 °C was carried out using a twin coaxial screw reactor known as Pyroformer to give yields of char 29%, 51% of bio-oil and 19% of permanent gases. The bio-oil liquid was found to separate in to an aqueous phase and organic phase. The organic phase contained viscous compounds that could age over time leading to solid tars that can present problems in CHP application. The quality of the pyrolysis vapour products before quenching can be upgraded to achieve much improved suitability as a fuel by downstream catalytic reforming. A Bench Scale batch pyrolysis reactor has then been used to pyrolyse small samples of BSG under a range of conditions of heating rate and temperature simulating the Pyroformer. A small catalytic reformer has been added downstream of the reactor in which the pyrolysis vapours can be further cracked and reformed. A commercial reforming nickel catalyst was used at 500, 750 and 850 °C at a space velocity about 10,000 L/h with and without the addition of steam. Results are presented for the properties of BSG, and the products of the pyrolysis process both with and without catalytic post-processing. Results indicate that catalytic reforming produced a significant increase in permanent gases mainly (H2 and CO) with H2 content exceeding 50 vol% at higher reforming temperatures. Bio-oil yield decreased significantly as reforming temperature increased with char remaining the same as pyrolysis condition remained unchanged. The process shows an increase in heating value for the product gas ranging between 10.8-25.2 MJ/m as reforming temperature increased.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-342
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis
Early online date1 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of analytical and applied pyrolysis. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Mahmood, ASN, Brammer, JG, Hornung, A, Steele, A & Poulston, S, 'The intermediate pyrolysis and catalytic steam reforming of Brewers spent grain' Journal of analytical and applied pyrolysis, vol. In Press, Corrected Proof (2013) DOI

Funding: EPSRC for financial support


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