A state-of-the-art review of biomass torrefaction, densification and applications

Wei Hsin Chen, Jianghong Peng, Xiaotao T. Bi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

879 Citations (Scopus)


Torrefaction is a mild pyrolysis, which has been explored for the pretreatment of biomass to increase the heating value and hydrophobicity. Due to its potential applications for making torrefied pellets, which can be used as a high quality feedstock in gasification for high quality syngas production and as a substitute for coal in thermal power plants and metallurgical processes, torrefaction and densification have attracted great interest in recent years from both academia and bioenergy industry. This paper provides a comprehensive review of research progresses in this area, drawing on major contributions from two major research groups of the authors on torrefaction and densification at Canada and Taiwan as well as literatures. It is revealed that torrefaction of various biomass species and their major components, lignin, cellulose and hemicelluloses have been extensively studied in thermogravimetric apparatus (TGA) under both inert (N2) and oxidative (O2, H2O) environments to elucidate the weight loss as a function of temperature, particle size and time. It was found that the higher heating value and saturated water uptake of torrefied biomass were a strong function of weight loss, which represents the degree of torrefaction. When torrefied sawdust is compressed into torrefied pellets, more mechanical energy is consumed and higher die temperature is required to make torrefied pellets of similar density and hardness as regular pellets. Simple economics analyses based on laboratory scale experimental data showed that because of the potential savings from pellets transport, handling and storage logistics, the overall cost for torrefied pellets can be lower than regular pellets in European market for both European and Canadian pellets. The gasification could be improved in terms of both energy efficiency and syngas quality because of the removal of oxygenated volatile compounds from torrefied biomass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-866
Number of pages20
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Apr

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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