An Exploratory Study of Phosphorus Release from Biomass by Carbothermic Reduction Reactions

Emil O. Lidman Olsson, Peter Glarborg, Henrik Leion, Kim Dam-Johansen, Hao Wu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Phosphorus (P) from biomass can cause operational problems in thermal conversion processes. In order to explore the release mechanism of P to the gas phase, carbothermic reduction of meta-, pyro-, and orthophosphates of ash elements commonly found in biomass; sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium was investigated. Mixtures of each phosphate and activated carbon were heated to 1135 °C in a laboratory-scale reactor, with the CO and CO2 evolving from the sample monitored, and the chemical composition of selected residues analyzed to quantify the release of P. Thermal gravimetric analysis was also performed on selected samples. The alkaline earth phosphates were reduced in steps, following the sequence meta → pyro → ortho → alkaline earth oxide. However, the alkali metaphosphates appear to be reduced in one step, in which both alkali and P are released. Alkali pyro- and orthophosphate appear to undergo a two-step process. In the first step, mainly alkali is released and in the second step both alkali and P. An intermediate is produced in the first step, which has a K:P:O atomic ratio of about 2:1:2.7, indicating it might be a phosphite with the overall stoichiometry; K4P2O5. The reduction of alkaline earth phosphates could be interpreted using available thermodynamic data, whereas thermodynamic equilibrium calculations for the alkali phosphates did not correspond well to the experimental observations. Kinetics were derived for the different reduction reactions, and can be used to compare the reactivity of the phosphates. The work suggests that carbothermic reduction reactions are important for the release of P in the temperature range 850–1135 °C and relevant for biomass combustion, pyrolysis and gasification.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Combustion Institute
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)3271-3281
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Biomass
  • Thermal conversion
  • Phosphorus
  • Phosphate
  • Carbothermic reduction


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