Materials, fuels, upgrading, economy, and life cycle assessment of the pyrolysis of algal and lignocellulosic biomass: a review

Ahmed I. Osman*, Mohamed Farghali, Ikko Ihara, Ahmed M. Elgarahy, Amir Ayyad, Neha Mehta, Kim Hoong Ng, Eman M. Abd El-Monaem, Abdelazeem S. Eltaweil, Mohamed Hosny, Seham M. Hamed, Samer Fawzy, Pow-Seng Yap*, David W. Rooney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Climate change issues are calling for advanced methods to produce materials and fuels in a carbon–neutral and circular way. For instance, biomass pyrolysis has been intensely investigated during the last years. Here we review the pyrolysis of algal and lignocellulosic biomass with focus on pyrolysis products and mechanisms, oil upgrading, combining pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion, economy, and life cycle assessment. Products include oil, gas, and biochar. Upgrading techniques comprise hot vapor filtration, solvent addition, emulsification, esterification and transesterification, hydrotreatment, steam reforming, and the use of supercritical fluids. We examined the economic viability in terms of profitability, internal rate of return, return on investment, carbon removal service, product pricing, and net present value. We also reviewed 20 recent studies of life cycle assessment. We found that the pyrolysis method highly influenced product yield, ranging from 9.07 to 40.59% for oil, from 10.1 to 41.25% for biochar, and from 11.93 to 28.16% for syngas. Feedstock type, pyrolytic temperature, heating rate, and reaction retention time were the main factors controlling the distribution of pyrolysis products. Pyrolysis mechanisms include bond breaking, cracking, polymerization and re-polymerization, and fragmentation. Biochar from residual forestry could sequester 2.74 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per ton biochar when applied to the soil and has thus the potential to remove 0.2–2.75 gigatons of atmospheric carbon dioxide annually. The generation of biochar and bio-oil from the pyrolysis process is estimated to be economically feasible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1419-1476
Number of pages58
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
Issue number3
Early online date24 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Biomass
  • climate change
  • biofuel
  • life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Circular economy
  • net zero
  • Decarbonization
  • biochar
  • Economic analysis
  • Pyrolysis
  • Review Article
  • Economic and life cycle assessment
  • Product distribution
  • Pyrolysis integration
  • Pyrolysis upgrading


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