Noble Metal Catalysts in the Production of Biofuels

Andrea Gutiérrez

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The energy demand is increasing in the world together with the need to ensure energy security and the desire to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. While several renewable alternatives are available for the production of electricity, e.g. solar energy, wind power, and hydrogen, biomass is the only renewable source that can meet the demand for carbon-based liquid fuels and chemicals. The technology applied in the conversion of biomass depends on the type and complexity of the biomass, and the desired fuel. Hydrogen and hydrogen-rich mixtures (synthesis gas) are promising energy sources as they are more efficient and cleaner than existing fuels, especially when they are used in fuel cells. Hydrotreatment is a catalytic process that can be used in the conversion of biomass or biomass-derived liquids into fuels. In autothermal reforming (ATR), catalysts are used in the production of hydrogen-rich mixtures from conventional fuels or bio-fuels. The different nature of biomass and biomass-derived liquids and mineral oil makes the use of catalysts developed for the petroleum industry challenging. This requires the improvement of available catalysts and the development of new ones. To overcome the limitations of conventional hydrotreatment and ATR catalysts, zirconia-supported mono- and bimetallic rhodium, palladium, and platinum catalysts were developed and tested in the upgrading of model compounds for wood-based pyrolysis oil and in the production of hydrogen, using model compounds for gasoline and diesel. Catalysts were also tested in the ATR of ethanol. For comparative purposes commercial catalysts were tested and the results obtained with model compounds were compared with those obtained with real feedstocks (hydrotreatmet tests with wood-based pyrolysis oil and ATR tests with NExBTL renewable diesel). Noble metal catalysts were active and selective in the hydrotreatment of guaiacol used as the model compound for the lignin fraction of wood-based pyrolysis oil and wood-based pyrolysis oil, and in the ATR of simulated gasoline and diesel, low sulfur diesel and ethanol for the production of hydrogen-rich mixture for fuel cells. In hydrotreatment and ATR, rhodium-containing catalysts were the most active, selective, and stable.
Translated title of the contributionNoble Metal Catalysts in the Production of Biofuels
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Krause, A. O. I., Supervising Professor
  • Honkela, M. L., Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-5322-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-5323-3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • biofuels
  • wood-based biofuels
  • noble metal catalysts
  • pyrolysis oil
  • hydrotreatment
  • autothermal reforming
  • ethanol reforming

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