Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Engineering Science


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering


Cedric Briens, Franco Berruti


The thermal treatment of crop oils was investigated with the aim to produce a renewable, liquid fuel suitable for use in wick-based lighting systems. Specific objectives include reducing fuel viscosity and improving wickability in traditional flat cotton wicks. Pyrolysis and visbreaking processes were the two methods of thermal treatment that were studied. Visbreaking was a semi-batch process carried out in a stirred tank reactor at temperatures ranging from 300 to 500 °C. Pyrolysis utilized a continuous system with a mechanically fluidized bed reactor at temperatures ranging from 400- 650 °C. Initial testing with soybean oil feedstock demonstrated that pyrolysis was the superior process for the application due to its greater severity. Organic liquid yields of up to 93 wt% were observed, with reduction in viscosity as high as 96%. Wickability of the fuel was greatly improved as demonstrated with dedicated testing. Product yields and properties were heavily reliant on reaction temperature in both processes. Feedstocks representing a wide spectrum of crop oil composition were tested with pyrolysis. The proportion of saturated chemical bonds was found to have a negative impact on the product quality at low temperatures. Highly saturated oils required increased temperatures to produce liquid product. Fuels produced from the thermal treatment of crop oils can provide up to 60 wt% in blends with kerosene to produce a successful lamp fuel.