Feasibility and Concurrent Remediation of Red Mud as an in situ Pyrolysis Catalyst

Andrew W. Lepore, Amanda J. Ashworth, Pyoung Chung Kim, Nicole Labbé, Raynella M. Connatser, Fred L. Allen

Abstract


Catalytic pyrolysis may serve as an alternative production strategy to petroleum-derived fuels and chemicals. Furthermore, red mud, a toxic industrial bauxite byproduct, could serve as a sustainable catalyst and overcome the need for more robust catalysts. To test this, in situ catalytic pyrolysis was run on a semi-pilot scale reactor with various ratios of red mud and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Authors hypothesized that the coking process would render red mud environmentally friendly, improve soil quality, and yield for bioenergy crop production, like biochar. Therefore, this work investigated red mud’s capability to enhance bio-oil quality, as well as, how the modified biochar produced from in situ pyrolysis affected switchgrass seedling vigor, and root/shoot mass. The results indicated that red mud was effective at increasing soil pH and biochar and bio-oil yields, while reducing the total acid number in bio-oil. While a high loading of reacted red mud had a negative impact on plant yield, the addition of uncatalyzed biochar to pure red mud considerably improved the seedling yield in marginal soils. These results suggest that this technology has potential for valorizing a waste stream and creating a soil amendment from red mud that closes nutrient and bioenergy production cycles while potentially reducing soil pollution.

Keywords


Bioremediation; Red mud; Pyrolysis; In situ catalyst; Bauxite; Bioenergy

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