Fast pyrolysis oil (PO), the liquid product of fast pyrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass, requires upgrading to extent its application range and for instance to allow for co-feeding in an existing oil-refinery. Catalytic hydrotreatment reactions (350 °C, 20 MPa total pressure, and 4 h reaction time) with mono- and bimetallic metal catalysts based on Rh, Pt, Pd on a zirconia support were performed in a batch set-up. Pd/ZrO2 showed the highest activity, followed by Rh/ZrO2. Upgraded oils with the best product properties were obtained with Rh/ZrO2. For this catalyst, the TGA residue, which is a measure for coking tendency, was 13.4 wt% and the Mw of the upgraded oil (748 g/mol) was lowest. All noble metal catalysts showed higher activities per gram of metal than the benchmark catalyst CoMo/Al2O3. Hydrotreatment reactions at variable batch times were performed to gain insights in reaction pathways and showed the involvement of competitive hydrogenation/hydrocracking and polymerisation pathways. Temperature programmed oxidation (TPO) measurements of spent catalysts showed the presence of carbonaceous deposits on the catalyst (2–6 wt%). These deposits may be removed by oxidation at temperatures lower than 600 °C without changing the morphology of the catalyst.
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