Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 199–212 | Cite as

Design and simulation of an organosolv process for bioethanol production

  • Jesse Kautto
  • Matthew J. Realff
  • Arthur J. Ragauskas
Original Article


Organosolv pulping can be used as a pretreatment step in bioethanol production. In addition to ethanol, organosolv pulping allows for the production of a pure lignin product and other co-products. Based on publicly available information, conceptual process design and simulation model were developed for an organosolv process. The simulation model was used to calculate the mass and energy balances and approximate fossil-based carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the process. With a hardwood feed of 2,350 dry metric tons (MT) per day, 459 MT/day (53.9 million gallons per year) of ethanol was produced. This corresponded to a carbohydrate to ethanol conversion of 64 %. The production rates of lignin, furfural, and acetic acid were 310, 6.6, and 30.3 MT/day, respectively. The energy balance indicated that the process was not energy self-sufficient. In addition to bark and organic residues combusted to produce energy, external fuel (natural gas) was needed to cover the steam demand. This was largely due to the energy consumed in recovering the solvent. Compared to a dilute acid bioethanol process, the organosolv process was estimated to consume 34 % more energy. Allocating all emissions from natural gas combustion to the produced ethanol led to fossil CO2 emissions of 13.5 g per megajoule (MJ) of ethanol. The total fossil CO2 emissions of the process, including also feedstock transportation and other less significant emission sources, would almost certainly not exceed the US Renewable Fuel Standard threshold limit (36.5 g CO2/MJ ethanol).


Organosolv Pretreatment Bioethanol Mass and energy balances Simulation Carbon dioxide 



Ammonia fiber explosion


Carbon dioxide


Furfural degradation products






Greenhouse gas


Sulfuric acid


Hydrochloric acid




Kinetic coefficients


Low molecular weight


Liquid-to-wood ratio


Metric ton


Sodium hydroxide


National Renewable Energy Laboratory


Non-random two-liquid


Non-random two-liquid-Hayden-O’Connel


Sulfite pretreatment to overcome lignocelluloses recalcitrance


Trioctyl phosphine oxide


Volume/volume (volume concentration)


Mass percentage


Wastewater treatment


Monomeric xylose


Oligomeric xylan



The Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Walter Ahlström Foundation are acknowledged for allocating funding to the first author (Kautto). The second author (Realff) gratefully acknowledges partial financial support from NSF grant and GOALI program, CBET 0933392.

Supplementary material

13399_2013_74_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (332 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 331 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesse Kautto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Matthew J. Realff
    • 3
  • Arthur J. Ragauskas
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Paper Science and Technology, Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Industrial ManagementLappeenranta University of TechnologyLappeenrantaFinland
  3. 3.School of Chemical and Biomolecular EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Institute of Paper Science and TechnologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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