Olive trimmings (OT) were used as feedstock for an in-depth experimental study on the reaction kinetics controlling hydrothermal carbonization (HTC). OT were hydrothermally carbonized for a residence time τ of up to 8 h at temperatures between 180 and 250 °C to systematically investigate the chemical and energy properties changes of hydrochars during HTC. Additional experiments at 120 and 150 °C at τ = 0 h were carried out to analyze the heat-up transient phase required to reach the HTC set-point temperature. Furthermore, an original HTC reaction kinetics model was developed. The HTC reaction pathway was described through a lumped model, in which biomass is converted into solid (distinguished between primary and secondary char), liquid, and gaseous products. The kinetics model, written in MATLABTM
, was used in best fitting routines with HTC experimental data obtained using OT and two other agro-wastes previously tested: grape marc and Opuntia Ficus Indica
. The HTC kinetics model effectively predicts carbon distribution among HTC products versus time with the thermal transient phase included; it represents an effective tool for R&D in the HTC field. Importantly, both modeling and experimental data suggest that already during the heat-up phase, biomass greatly carbonizes, in particular at the highest temperature tested of 250 °C.
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