As the world continues to deplete its nonrenewable resources, there has begun a shift toward using renewable materials for the production of fuels and chemicals. Terrestrial biomass, as well as municipal solid wastes, provides renewable feedstocks for fuel and chemical production. However, one of the major challenges to using biomass as a feedstock for fuel and chemical production is the great amount of innate variability between different biomass types and within individual biomass species. This inconsistency arises from varied growth and harvesting conditions and presents challenges for conversion processes, which frequently require physically and chemically uniform materials. This chapter will examine intrinsic biomass compositional characteristics including cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, extractives/volatiles, and ash for a wide array of biomass types. Additionally, extrinsic properties, such as moisture content and particle grind size, will be examined for their effect on biomass conversion to fuels using four major conversion processes: direct combustion, pyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and fermentation. A brief discussion on recent research for the production of building block chemicals from biomass will also be presented.
Part of the book: Biomass Volume Estimation and Valorization for Energy