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Assessment of Pollution Levels Resulting from Biomass Gasification
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Energy Technology, Heat and Power Technology.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Today the large scale introduction of biomass gasification is hampered by health, safety and environmental issues which present a major barrier in the deployment of this technology. The condensate in particular resulting from producer gas cooling before use in gas engines is highly toxic and carcinogenic which, if not adequately controlled, can lead to detrimental impacts on human health and the environment. The study was therefore aimed at assessment of pollution levels resulting from biomass gasification organic condensates. The study involved assessing the concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and BTEX (i.e. benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) in the condensate deemed toxic and carcinogenic, mention their impact on human health and the environment as well as recommend measures aimed at minimizing pollution levels resulting from biomass gasification.


The gasifier installation at Makerere University was run in downdraft mode using maize cobs as biomass fuel. The producer gas was cooled using a water cooled condenser connected to the exhaust pipe of the gasifier. The condensate was then transferred into sampling bottles made of opaque glass to minimize photochemical reactions in water samples and preserved in a cooler at 2oC to 6oC until the time for analysis to minimize volatilization and bacterial degradation of the hydrocarbons. The capillary gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detector (CGCMSD) was used to analyze the condensate for the selected hydrocarbons.

The procedures involved preparation of PAHs and BTEX standard solutions using standard mixtures and internal standards, calibration of the CGCMSD, extraction of the aromatic hydrocarbons using hexane, performing a surrogate analysis to assess percent recoveries and injecting a 2 µl aliquot of the final solution of each test sample in a CGCMSD for analysis. Identification of targeted hydrocarbons was based on the retention time match and mass spectra match against the calibration standards while quantitation was done by use of internal standards.


The average concentration of naphthalene was 204.3 mg/m3, benzene-16.8 mg/m3,toluene-105.5 mg/m3, ethylbenzene-200.9 mg/m3, 1,2-dimethyl benzene-209.5 mg/m3 and 1,3+1,4-dimethyl benzene-790.4 mg/m3. Acenaphthylene, acenaphthene, fluorene, phenanthrene and anthracene were not detected in the condensate by the CGCMSD due to their concentration levels being below the detection limit of the CGCMSD. The concentrations of naphthalene and xylene were considerably high compared to the recommended permissible exposure limits thus posing risks on both human health and the environment. It is therefore important to treat the condensate before disposal to the environment. On the other hand, the concentrations of benzene, toluene and ethylbenzene were below the permissible exposure limit and therefore for this study, the liquid effluent was considered to meet the regulatory standards. The recommendations aimed at minimizing pollution levels during biomass gasification were also discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 79 p.
Keyword [en]
producer gas cooling, condensate, PAHs, BTEX, CGCMSD, carcinogenic, toxic, downdraft gasifier
National Category
Engineering and Technology Mechanical Engineering Energy Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-101404OAI: diva2:547536
Subject / course
Energy Technology
Educational program
Master of Science - Sustainable Energy Engineering
2012-06-25, Makerere University, Kampala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2012-08-28 Created: 2012-08-28 Last updated: 2012-08-28Bibliographically approved

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