Waste biomass species such as lignin-rich hazelnut shell (HS) and polysaccharides-rich sunflower seed shell (SSS) were subjected to torrefaction at 300 degrees C and carbonization at 600 degrees C under nitrogen. The structural variations in torrefied and carbonized biomasses were compared. Also, the burning characteristics under dry air and pure oxygen (oxy-combustion) conditions were investigated. It was concluded that the effects of carbonization on HS are almost comparable with the effects of torrefaction on SSS in terms of devolatilization and deoxygenation potentials and the increases in carbon content and the heating value. Consequently, it can be proposed that torrefaction does not provide efficient devolatilization from the lignin-rich biomass while it is relatively more efficient for polysaccharides-rich biomass. Heat-induced variations in biomass led to significant changes in the burning characteristics under both burning conditions. That is, low temperature reactivity of biomass reduced considerably and the burning shifted to higher temperatures with very high burning rates. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.