Membrane and Electrochemical Based Technologies for the Decontamination of Exploitable Streams Produced by Thermochemical Processing of Contaminated Biomass
Phytoremediation is an emerging concept for contaminated soil restoration via the use of resilient plants that can absorb soil contaminants. The harvested contaminated biomass can be thermochemically converted to energy carriers/chemicals, linking soil decontamination with biomassto-energy and aligning with circular economy principles. Two thermochemical conversion steps of contaminated biomass, both used for contaminated biomass treatment/exploitation, are considered: Supercritical Water Gasification and Fast Pyrolysis. For the former, the vast majority of contaminants are transferred into liquid and gaseous effluents, and thus the application of purification steps is necessary prior to further processing. In Fast Pyrolysis, contaminants are mainly retained in the solid phase, but a part appears in the liquid phase due to fine solids entrainment. Contaminants include heavy metals, particulate matter, and hydrogen sulfide. The purified streams allow the in-process re-use of water for the Super Critical Water Gasification, the sulfur-free catalytic conversion of the fuel-rich gaseous stream of the same process into liquid fuels and recovery of an exploitable bio-oil rich stream from the Fast Pyrolysis. Considering the fundamental importance of purification/decontamination to exploit the aforementioned streams in an integrated context, a review of available such technologies is conducted, and options are shortlisted. Technologies of choice include polymeric-based membrane gas absorption for desulfurization, electrooxidation/electrocoagulation for the liquid product of Supercritical Water Gasification and microfiltration via ceramic membranes for fine solids removal from the Fast Pyrolysis bio-oil. Challenges, risks, and suitable strategies to implement these options in the context of biomass-to-energy conversion are discussed and recommendations are made.