, Volume 123, Issue 1-3, pp 871-882

The lignol approach to biorefining of woody biomass to produce ethanol and chemicals

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Processes that produce only ethanol from lignocellulosics display poor economics. This is generally overcome by constructing large facilities having satisfactory economies of scale, thus making financing onerous and hindering the development of suitable technologies. Lignol Innovations has developed a biorefining technology that employs an ethanol-based organosolv step to separate lignin, hemicellulose components, and extractives from the cellulosic fraction of woody biomass. The resultant cellulosic fraction is highly susceptible to enzymatic hydrolysis, generating very high yields of glucose (>90% in 12–24h) with typical enzyme loadings of 10–20 FPU (filter paper units)/g. This glucose is readily converted to ethanol, or possibly other sugar platform chemicals, either by sequential or simultaneous saccharification and fermentation. The liquor from the organosolv step is processed by well-established unit operations to recover lignin, furfural, xylose, acetic acid, and a lipophylic extractives fraction. The process ethanol is recovered and recycled back to the process. The resulting recycled process water is of a very high quality, low BOD5, and suitable for overall system process closure. Significant benefits can be attained in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, as per the Kyoto Protocol. Revenues from the multiple products, particularly the lignin, ethanol and xylose fractions, ensure excellent economics for the process even in plants as small as 100 mtpd (metric tonnes per day) dry woody biomass input—a scale suitable for processing wood residues produced by a single large sawmill.