UBC Faculty Research and Publications

How effective are traditional methods of compositional analysis in providing an accurate material balance for a range of softwood derived residues? Burkhardt, Sabrina; Kumar, Linoj; Chandra, Richard; Saddler, Jack


Background: Forest residues represent an abundant and sustainable source of biomass which could be used as a biorefinery feedstock. Due to the heterogeneity of forest residues, such as hog fuel and bark, one of the expected challenges is to obtain an accurate material balance of these feedstocks. Current compositional analytical methods have been standardised for more homogenous feedstocks such as white wood and agricultural residues. The described work assessed the accuracy of existing and modified methods on a variety of forest residues both before and after a typical pretreatment process. Results: When “traditional” pulp and paper methods were used, the total amount of material that could be quantified in each of the six softwood-derived residues ranged from 88% to 96%. It was apparent that the extractives present in the substrate were most influential in limiting the accuracy of a more representative material balance. This was particularly evident when trying to determine the lignin content, due to the incomplete removal of the extractives, even after a two stage water-ethanol extraction. Residual extractives likely precipitated with the acid insoluble lignin during analysis, contributing to an overestimation of the lignin content. Despite the minor dissolution of hemicellulosic sugars, extraction with mild alkali removed most of the extractives from the bark and improved the raw material mass closure to 95% in comparison to the 88% value obtained after water-ethanol extraction. After pretreatment, the extent of extractive removal and their reaction/precipitation with lignin was heavily dependent on the pretreatment conditions used. The selective removal of extractives and their quantification after a pretreatment proved to be even more challenging. Regardless of the amount of extractives that were originally present, the analytical methods could be refined to provide reproducible quantification of the carbohydrates present in both the starting material and after pretreatment. Conclusion: Despite the challenges resulting from the heterogeneity of the initial biomass substrates a reasonable summative mass closure could be obtained before and after steam pretreatment. However, method revision and optimisation was required, particularly the effective removal of extractives, to ensure that representative and reproducible values for the major lignin and carbohydrate components.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)