Conversion of Agricultural Waste to Biofuels by Microwave Pyrolysis


Agriculture is the backbone of many growing economies, producing around 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally through biodegradation (UN News, 2019). The proposed plant explores the use of sugarcane bagasse and peel as a feedstock in the production of biofuels. The plant will be built in Brazil, a country which relies on millions of flex-fuel cars while contributing the world’s largest source of sugarcane and sugarcane waste (Leitao, 2010).

The proposed plant uses microwave assisted pyrolysis in fixed bed batch reactors to convert the feed to bio-oil, biochar, and syngas. Bio-oil is the primary product, representing 42.4 wt% of the total product yield. Biochar and syngas are secondary and tertiary products, representing 27.2 wt% and 28.4 wt% of the total product yield. Bio-oil, biochar and syngas were assigned their priorities based on the local demand for each product. To remain comparable to mature technologies, the operation will maintain a minimum annual feedstock capacity of 20,000 ton/year. This permits hourly production rates of 1344 kg, 985 kg and 882 of bio-oil, biochar and syngas, respectively. The process uses Nickel Oxide (NiO) as a catalyst since it selectively favors bio-oil at the expense of syngas production.

The plant consists of four main sections. Section 100 is the “Feed Pre-Treatment Section”, where contaminants are removed from the sugarcane bagasse and peel feed. Section 200 is the “Reaction Section”, where agricultural waste forms pyrolysis products. Section 300 and Section 400 are the “Product Separation Section” and “Product Storage Section”, respectively.


  • Aidan Lirette
  • Evan Viola
  • Jacob Tawil
  • Quinn Kovach
  • Steve Wihak