Prescribed (i.e., controlled) burning is a common practice used in many vegetation types in the world to accomplish a wide range of land management objectives including wildfire risk reduction, wildlife habitat improvement, forest regeneration, and land clearing. To properly apply controlled fire and reduce unwanted fire behavior, an improved understanding of fundamental processes related to combustion of live and dead vegetation is needed. Since the combustion process starts with pyrolysis, there is a need for more data and better models of pyrolysis of live and dead fuels. In this study, slow pyrolysis experiments were carried out in a pyrolyzer apparatus and a Thermogravimetric analyzer (TGA) under oxygen free environment in three groups of experiments. In the first group, the effects of temperature (400–800 °C), a slow heating rate (H.R.) (5–30 °C min−1), and carrier gas flow rate (50–350 ml min−1) on yields of tar and light gas obtained from pyrolysis of dead longleaf pine litter in the pyrolyzer apparatus were investigated to find the optimum condition which results in the maximum tar yield. In the second group of experiments, 14 plant species (live and dead) native to forests in the southern United States, were heated in the pyrolyzer apparatus at the optimum condition. A gas chromatograph equipped with a mass spectrometer (GC–MS) and a gas chromatograph equipped with a thermal conductivity detector (GC-TCD) were used to study the speciation of tar and light gases, respectively. In the third group of experiments, the slow pyrolysis experiments for all plant species (live and dead) were carried out in the TGA at 5 different heating rates ranged from 10 to 30 ℃ min-1 to study the kinetics of pyrolysis. The results showed that the highest tar yield was obtained at a temperature of 500 °C, heating rate of 30 °C min−1, and sweep gas flow rate of 100 ml min−1. In addition, the tar composition is dominated by oxygenated aromatic compounds consisting mainly of phenols. The light gas analysis showed that CO and CO2 were the dominant light gas species for all plant samples on a dry wt% basis, followed by CH4 and H2. The kinetics of pyrolysis was studied using one model-free method and three model-fitting methods. First, the model-free method of Kissinger-Akahira-Sunose (KAS) was used to calculate the rates of pyrolysis as a function of the extent of conversion. The results showed that different plant species had different rates at different conversions. Then, three model fitting methods were used to find the kinetic parameters to potentially provide a single rate for each plant species. The results showed that the simple one-step model did not fit the one-peak pyrolysis data as well as the distributed activation energy model (DAEM) model. The multiple-reaction DAEM model provided very good fits to the experimental data where multiple peaks were observed, even at different heating rates.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Chemical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





slow pyrolysis, live vegetation, biomass, light gas, tar, pyrolysis temperature, heating rate, fuel type, pyrolysis kinetics, TGA, iso-conversional methods, model-fitting methods, DAEM



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Engineering Commons