Bacterial acetone and butanol production by industrial fermentation in the Soviet Union: use of hydrolyzed agricultural waste for biorefinery
Clostridial acetone–butanol fermentation from renewable carbohydrates used to be the largest biotechnological process second only to yeast ethanol fermentation and the largest process ever run under sterile conditions. With the rising prices for mineral oil, it has now the economical and technological potential to replace petrochemistry for the production of fuels from renewable resources. Various methods for using non-food biomass such as cellulose and hemicellulose in agricultural products and wastes have been developed at laboratory scale. To our knowledge, the AB plants in Russia were the only full-scale industrial plants which used hydrolyzates of lignocellosic waste for butanol fermentation. These plants were further developed into the 1980s, and the process was finally run in a continual mode different from plants in Western countries. A biorefinery concept for the use of all by-products has been elaborated and was partially put into practice. The experience gained in the Soviet Union forms a promising basis for the development of modern large-scale processes to replace a considerable fraction of the current chemical production of fuel for our future needs on a sustainable basis.