Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Wayne Seames


Sustainable energy continues to grow more important to all societies, leading to the research and development of a variety of alternative and renewable energy technologies. Of these, renewable liquid transportation fuels may be the most visible to consumers, and this visibility is further magnified by the long-term trend of increasingly expensive petroleum fuels that the public consumes. While first-generation biofuels such as biodiesel and fuel ethanol have been integrated into the existing fuel infrastructures of several countries, the chemical differences between them and their petroleum counterparts reduce their effectiveness. This gives rise to the development and commercialization of second generation biofuels, many of which are intended to have equivalent properties to those of their petroleum counterparts.

In this dissertation, the primary reactions for a second-generation biofuel process, known herein as the University of North Dakota noncatalytic cracking process (NCP), have been studied at the fundamental level and improved. The NCP is capable of producing renewable fuels and chemicals that are virtually the same as their petroleum counterparts in performance and quality (i.e., petroleum-equivalent). In addition, a novel analytical method, FIMSDIST was developed which, within certain limitations, can increase the elution capabilities of GC analysis and decrease sample processing times compared to other high resolution methods. These advances are particularly useful for studies of highly heterogeneous fuel and/or organic chemical intermediates, such as those studied for the NCP. However the data from FIMSDIST must be supplemented with data from other methods such as for certain carboxylic acid, to provide accurate, comprehensive results,

From a series of TAG cracking experiments that were performed, it was found that coke formation during cracking is most likely the result of excessive temperature and/or residence time in a cracking reactor. Based on this, a tubular cracking reactor was developed that could operate continuously without coke formation. The design also was proven to be scalable. Yields from the reactor were determined under a variety of conditions in order to predict the outputs from the NCP and to establish relationships/correlations between operating parameters and the product distribution. These studies led to the conclusion that the most severe operating conditions which do not induce coking are optimal over the experimental domain.

In order to develop economical deoxygenation catalysts for use within the NCP, a series of experiments were performed using nickel catalysts, demonstrating that nickel catalysts could outperform their predecessor, a high cost palladium-based catalyst. A nickel catalyst was then tested in a packed bed reactor in order to determine suitable operating conditions for its commercial utilization in packed bed reactors.