Original Paper

Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 35-45

First online:

Conversion of paper sludge to ethanol, II: process design and economic analysis

  • Zhiliang FanAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • , Lee R. LyndAffiliated withChemical and Biochemical Engineering Program Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth CollegeBiological Science, Dartmouth College Email author 

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Process design and economics are considered for conversion of paper sludge to ethanol. A particular site, a bleached kraft mill operated in Gorham, NH by Fraser Papers (15 tons dry sludge processed per day), is considered. In addition, profitability is examined for a larger plant (50 dry tons per day) and sensitivity analysis is carried out with respect to capacity, tipping fee, and ethanol price. Conversion based on simultaneous saccharification and fermentation with intermittent feeding is examined, with ethanol recovery provided by distillation and molecular sieve adsorption. It was found that the Fraser plant achieves positive cash flow with or without xylose conversion and mineral recovery. Sensitivity analysis indicates economics are very sensitive to ethanol selling price and scale; significant but less sensitive to the tipping fee, and rather insensitive to the prices of cellulase and power. Internal rates of return exceeding 15% are projected for larger plants at most combinations of scale, tipping fee, and ethanol price. Our analysis lends support to the proposition that paper sludge is a leading point-of-entry and proving ground for emergent industrial processes featuring enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulosic biomass.