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New feedstock and innovative transformation process for a more sustainable development and production of lignocellulosic ethanol

Final Report Summary - BABETHANOL (New feedstock and innovative transformation process for a more sustainable development and production of lignocellulosic ethanol)


Executive Summary:

The main objective of the BABETHANOL project was to develop new solutions for a more sustainable approach of second generation ethanol production, based on a “moderate, environmental-friendly and integrated” pre-treatment process of lignocellulosic biomasses. A new solution based on a new process applicable to a diversified range of indigenous feedstock available and concentrated at local/regional level has been developed. The new process, called CES (Combined Extrusion-Saccharification), is an alternative to the current pre-treatments of the state-of-the-art, requiring much energy, water, chemical products, detoxification and waste treatments. It has been developed and tested up to TRL 5 (Technology Readiness Level) from laboratory to pilot scales with seven selected biomasses covering a large range of diversified feedstock: Blue Agave Bagasse from Mexico, Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches from Costa Rica, Sweet Corn Cob from France, Barley Straw from Spain, Sugar Cane Bagasse from Brazil, Vineyard Pruning Residues from Chile and Eucalyptus Forest Residues from Uruguay.

The whole pre-treatment process is performed in one extrusion high-throughput single run of a few minutes residence time. Under these conditions, the slurry coming out of the process is able to achieve saccharification and fermentation yields up to 85% from theoretical hexose sugars. The advantages of the new pre-treatment process are many-fold: low operating pressure and temperature minimizing energy consumption and not requiring cooling the slurry before saccharification, low liquid/solid ratio of the slurry requiring minimum addition of water to adjust the consistency for saccharification, no formation of inhibitors for the fermentation process, no need for washing the slurry and therefore no generation of contaminated effluents, robustness and quick adaptation of the process to different biomasses.

Saccharification performances can still be improved with more efficient enzymatic cocktails and fermentation performances are not optimized yet, since pentose sugars could not be fermented together with hexose sugars at high consistencies. Even though the ethanol production is not optimum yet, the overall production process is already competitive in terms of energy efficiency, generating twice more energy than it consumes. The carbon foot print can still be improved.

Several zero waste management strategies have been evaluated that should help reaching the above goal and also cost-effectiveness. The financial evaluation of the whole ethanol production chain highlighted the fact that raw material supply is still one of the main contributors to costs (up to 25%), so it is essential for the production plants to be located as close as possible to the biomass production sites (within 100 km radius). This finding reinforces the initial vision of the BABETHANOL project for short ethanol production circuits using indigenous productions of lignocellulosic residues and generating socio-economic benefits for local populations. For this purpose, many feedstock have already been identified during the project at local level in European and Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Spain, United Kingdom and Uruguay. It will allow a rapid deployment of 2nd generation ethanol production plants once the new process will be ready for industrialization.

Project Context and Objectives:

Today, USA and Brazil have massively invested in first generation ethanol from mono-culture, taking advantage of their respective native crops (corn and sugar cane), intensive culture practices and large availability of land. Other countries like France and Germany are also developing first generation ethanol using crops such as corn in southern regions and sugar beet in northern regions. These renewable biofuel production models cannot be applied to industrial and emerging countries where land for agricultural is limited and fully dedicated to feed populations and livestock. In these cases, one of the best solutions to comply with the objectives of renewable biofuel to replace gasoline and avoid food/fuel competition would be the production of so called second generation ethanol from crops and agro-industrial lignocellulosic wastes available and concentrated at local/regional scale.

The production of second generation ethanol from lignocellulosic biomasses has been under study for the past decades. Indeed, producing second generation ethanol is not as easy as first generation where sugars are already or readily available for conversion to alcohol. In second generation ethanol the lignocellulosic matrix of the biomass must be deconstructed first to release the polysaccharides (hemicelluloses and cellulose) which will be then easily accessible to the microorganisms for saccharification and production of hexose and pentose sugar monomers. This pre-treatment of the biomass has been the main barrier to overcome in second generation ethanol.

During the last decades, different pre-treatment technologies have been developed in Europe and USA. Today, the most advanced processes are acid hydrolysis and steam explosion or a combination of both, which further allow achieving good saccharification yields. But these processes require much energy, water, chemical products, detoxification and waste treatment. Moreover, they are not applicable to a wide range of biomasses. For many years, several major actors of first generation ethanol have announced construction of large production plants in Canada, USA, Brazil, Spain and China. But up to now, only demonstration/pilot plants have been developed. Indeed, although efficient on a technical point of view, these pre-treatment processes significantly increase the production cost, making the price of second generation ethanol not competitive in the fuel market.

The objectives of the BABETHANOL project were two-folds: to develop a new alternative « moderate, environmental-friendly and integrated » pre-treatment process applicable to a wide range of lignocellulosic wastes, and to identify lignocellulosic feedstock available at local/regional scale in many countries of Europe and Latin America, and suitable for the production of ethanol with the new pre-treatment process.

The new process called CES (Combined Extrusion-Saccharification) is based on the concept of thermo-mechanical deconstruction of the biomass matrix by extrusion, to favour the access of the carbohydrates to the saccharification enzymes. It was developed by three research laboratories in three countries (France, Mexico and Spain) from laboratory to pilot scales on four preselected biomasses: Blue Agave Bagasse (BAB) from Mexico, Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches (OPEFB) from Costa Rica, Sweet Corn Cob (SC) from France and Barley Straw (BS) from Spain. The expected advantages of the new pre-treatment process when compared to the current most advanced pre-treatment technologies were: less thermal energy and water consumptions (lower T°, higher consistency of slurries for saccharification), no acid consumption and neutralization reagents (lower on raw materials), no corrosiveness (lower on maintenance and capital equipment cost), no contaminated residues and recycling / waste treatment (lower on raw materials and capital equipment cost) and process integration (lower on capital equipment cost).

The performances of the new process were also assessed by four industrial/engineering partners in France and Mexico, after evaluating the cost-effectiveness and impact on the environment. The energy efficiency and carbon foot print were two major indicators of performance evaluated along the project and used as inputs to orient the technical choices.

In parallel to the process development, a feedstock catalogue of diversified crop and agro-industrial wastes was built along the project from investigations run in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Paraguay, Spain, United Kingdom and Uruguay, by one partner in each continent. The main idea was to identify concentrated amounts of indigenous lignocellulosic wastes currently available at local/regional scales for the prompt deployment of small, medium or large size second generation ethanol plants near the biomass production sites once the new process will be ready for industrialization.

Besides the technical contents and objectives of the project, BABETHANOL was designed to enhance Europe-Latino America cooperation. All the development were jointly performed by European and Latin American partners and new knowledge shared along the project. This way, at the end of project, partners on both continents will be capable to exploit the results of the project and bring the new developments to the respective market.

Project Results:

The main objective of the BABETHANOL project was to develop new solutions for a more sustainable approach of second generation ethanol production, based on a “moderate, environmental-friendly and integrated” pre-treatment process of lignocellulosic biomasses. A new solution based on a new process applicable to a diversified range of indigenous feedstock available and concentrated at local/regional level has been developed. The new process, called CES (Combined Extrusion-Saccharification), is an alternative to the current pre-treatments of the state-of-the-art, requiring much energy, water, chemical products, detoxification and waste treatments. It has been developed and tested up to TRL 5 (Technology Readiness Level) from laboratory to pilot scales with seven selected biomasses covering a large range of diversified feedstock: Blue Agave Bagasse (BAB) from Mexico, Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches (OPEFB) from Costa Rica, Sweet Corn Cob and leaves (SC) from France, Barley Straw (BS) from Spain, Sugar Cane Bagasse (SCB) from Brazil, Vineyard Pruning Residues (VPR) from Chile and Eucalyptus Forest Residues (EFR) from Uruguay.

The whole pre-treatment process is performed in one extrusion high-throughput single run of a few minutes residence time. Under these conditions, the slurry coming out of the process is able to achieve saccharification and fermentation yields up to 85% from theoretical hexose sugars. The advantages of the new pre-treatment process are many-fold: low operating pressure and temperature minimizing energy consumption and not requiring cooling the slurry before saccharification, low liquid/solid ratio of the slurry requiring minimum addition of water to adjust the consistency for saccharification, no formation of inhibitors for the fermentation process, no need for washing the slurry and therefore no generation of contaminated effluents, robustness and quick adaptation of the process to different biomasses.

Process development

The new pre-treatment process was developed with four preselected biomasses rich in cellulose and hemicelluloses obtained in four different countries: Blue Agave Bagasse (BAB) a fibrous agro-industrial waste resulting from the manufacturing of Tequila in Mexico, Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches (OPEFB) also a fibrous agro-industrial waste resulting from the manufacturing of palm oil in Costa Rica, Sweet Corn Cob and leaves (SC) a grainy agro-industrial waste resulting from the harvest of corn and the production of sweet corn in France, and Barley Straw (BS) a fibrous residue resulting from the harvest of barley in Spain.

The beginning of the project was dedicated to the characterization of the biomasses and the study of the operating conditions for the deconstruction of the lignocellulosic matrix with the twin-screw extruders at laboratory scale. Temperature, reagent/raw material dry matter ratio, screw profile and rotation speed and solid/liquid ratio were the variables of major influence. A selection of best commercial enzymes and cocktails for each biomass was also performed at the beginning of the project. From the fifteen pre-selected candidates, two types of cellulases and one type of hemicellulase were preselected for their outstanding performances in terms of hydrolysis of the pre-treated biomasses.

Best range of operating conditions and best screw profiles and rotation speeds were defined for different pre-treatment configurations: single and multi-runs with and without filtration of the soluble compounds, for each biomass. Multi-run configuration was studied to increase the residence time and improve deconstruction of the biomass. But this configuration was abandoned because the drawbacks were higher than the benefits.

When deconstruction and saccharification studies were sufficiently advanced, a selection of best hexose commercial fermentation yeasts was conducted for the different biomasses, and a common protocol for saccharification and fermentation reactions established. For BAB, native yeast strains were also screened and selected from the Tequila and Pulque productions. One native strain almost as efficient as the best commercial yeast was identified and used for the fermentation study of the slurries obtained from BAB. Hexose-pentose co-fermentation strategies were further developed and evaluated by the partners. Two fermentation strategies were investigated direct SSF (Simultaneous Saccharification and Fermentation) and “indirect” SSF after pre-saccharification of the slurry. Direct SSF was found a viable option but indirect SSF was the configuration most studied until the end of the project, in order to follow the saccharification performances.

The second half of the project was dedicated to the search of the best operating conditions for the pre-treatment process in order to improve the hydrolysis performances, energy efficiency and carbon foot print, prior to transferring the CES process to semi-industrial pilot scale.

Each of the partners working on the CES process explored different operating parameters and defined best conditions with their respective lab scale extruder and biomasses (SC, OPEFB, BAB and BS respectively). The influence of several operating parameters was assessed by different indicators such as: composition of the extrudates and filtrates, de-polymerization, decrystallization, porosity rates and sugar production at different saccharification reaction times (24, 36 or 48 hr).The catalyst/raw material dry matter ratio and temperature ranges were those defined at the beginning of the project. Other parameters were further optimised such as screw profiles (impact on shearing, mixing and conveying efficiencies and overall flow stability of the biomass), screw rotation speed (impact on shear development and residence time), moisture or liquid/solid ratio (impact on the filtration, friction, residence time), and enzyme dosages at high consistencies in the saccharification reactor (≥20% dry matter) in order to increase the sugar concentration prior to fermentation. The CES process was studied in two runs (about 1.5-2 minutes residence time each) with the lab scale extruders.

Final best CES operating conditions were defined at laboratory scale for each biomass prior to the scaling up of the process. Overall, temperatures ranged from 100 to 25°C along the barrel, screw rotation from 85 to 250 rpm and liquid/solid ration from 3 to 4. Screw configurations were adapted to each biomass with the different lab scale extruders used by the partners.

The objectives of the scaling-up was to adapt the operating conditions defined at lab scale with two extruder runs and different lab scale equipment in a single and same extruder run at higher flow rates, and to verify that the performances obtained at lab scale were reproducible or possibly improved, under these new conditions closer to an industrial application of the new process.

The scaling-up was performed with a co-rotating and co-penetrating twin-screw extruder with capacity to treat up to 150kg/h biomass. The new screw profile configurations at pilot scale were designed to reproduce to the best possible the different steps and configurations defined at lab scale. The residence time obtained at lab scale with the succession of two extruder runs was about 4 minutes. Whereas at pilot scale in one extruder run it dropped to 2 minutes, so twice less time for the pre-treatment of the biomasses.

For sweet corn, the screw profile was designed to have the same sequence of actions and effects on the biomass as at lab scale. Bi-lobal paddles of variable sizes were used in each mixing zones. Several reverse screws were used for the formation of the plug and filtration of the soluble compounds. For barley straw, the screw profile was quite similar to that used for SC. The main difference was the adding of a shearing zone to obtain best defibration. The screw profile used for oil palm empty fruit bunches was derived from that of SC. OPEFB is a very fibrous biomass, so like for BS, the quantity of reverse screws was adapted. The screw profile used for the scaling-up with BAB was the same as for OPEFB. Indeed, these two materials despite their different origin have a very close fibrous morphology. One of the reverse screws was removed from the previous configuration, the screw speed was increased from 100 to 200 rpm and the temperature decreased to 25°C.

In order to demonstrate the versatility and robustness of the new pre-treatment process, additional pilot scale experiments were performed with new biomasses not studied at lab scale: SCB, EFR and VPR. Because of its fibrous texture and its lignin content similar to that of BAB, the screw profile chosen for SCR was the same as for BAB. EFR has a typical wood composition, because of its high cellulose and lignin content, the screw profile used for this material was the same as for OPEFB, with less reverse screws. The VPR composition is close to the composition of BS but with its much harder fibrous structure, it was decided to use the same screw profile as for OPEFB.

For all the biomasses, the feasibility of applying the CES process in a single run extruder at pilot scale and higher flow rates (scaling factors up to 70) was demonstrated. The different steps of the process were effective and led to significant destructuration of the lignocellulosic matrix. It was verified by analysing the composition of the filtrate and extrudate matters in comparison with the composition of the raw matter. The saccharification performances obtained at pilot scale were similar, and in some cases even better, than those obtained at lab scale.

Concerning the saccharification-fermentation of the slurries produced with the CES process for each biomass, the general protocol agreed by the partners at the beginning of the project with saccharification at 16-24 hours reaction time, 50°C, pH 5.0 and minimum 20% DM consistency, and fermentation at 35°C and pH maintained at 5.0 for additional 48 hours was applied. Each time best commercial enzymatic cocktails and yeasts identified at the beginning of the project for each biomass were used. The studies were performed first from the slurries obtained at laboratory scale and second from the slurries obtained at pilot scale. Indeed, it was necessary to confirm that the ethanol production obtained with the pre-treatment process at laboratory scale was reproducible at pilot scale. In these last studies, higher consistencies and enzyme dosages, hexose-pentose co-fermentation strategies and fermentation in pilot scale reactors were also evaluated.

In all the cases the saccharification and fermentation yields, and the sugar and ethanol concentrations obtained from pilot scale slurries were in the same range as those obtained from the lab scale slurries. Maximum saccharification and fermentation yields of 85% from theoretical hexose sugars were reached at 20% dry matter consistency. Two different strategies of C5-C6 co-fermentation were finally developed and applied: one with single co-fermenting yeast and another one with a combination of C5 and C6 yeasts. None of them was successful to ferment both C5 and C6 sugars at 20% dry matter consistency.

Environmental and economical evaluation

The evaluation was run for three biomasses SC, BS and BAB with the best ethanol production results and operating conditions from the pre-treatment at pilot scale. One of the major conclusions at mid-term was that it was necessary to valorise the by-products of the process: the filtrate from the CES process and the vinasses (waste from the distillation of the fermented mashes). For these purposes, two different zero-waste strategies for the valorisation of the by-products were studied at the end of project: one generally accepted and proposed in 2nd generation ethanol processes with production and recycling of energy (steam and electricity) in the plant, and another one with production and full commercialisation of biogas and mineral fertiliser.

The evaluation of the environmental and economical performances was conducted after designing a small industrial or demonstration plant of 30,000 tons/year equivalent dry biomass treating capacity. The hypothesis for unit prices of operating costs and products sales were made at national level: Mexico for BAB and France/Spain for SC and BS. The sales price for ethanol was the one currently used for first generation ethanol. The location of the ethanol production plants were optimised in order to be as close as possible to the lignocellulosic feedstock production sites and the oil refineries or fuel storage terminals.

Concerning the economical evaluation, the results were quite different for the Mexican and European biomasses, partly due to the different national economical conditions, and to the different zero waste strategies. Under these conditions, the cost-effectiveness of producing ethanol from BAB was better than from BS and SC. Nevertheless, common conclusions could be drawn: profitability was not achievable without optimum conversion and valorisation of the by-products, biomass purchase was still one of the major operating variable costs (15-25%) even though if transportation was limited to 100 km distances, catalyst reagents for the pre-treatment process and enzymes were the two other major variable operating costs (30-50% for both). The major improvement in the P&L (profit and loss) statement can be obtained from a higher production of ethanol with more efficient enzymatic cocktails and pentose-hexose co-fermentation. Under these conditions, there are good perspectives for achieving profitability of an industrial plant using the CES process for the pre-treatment of the biomass.

Concerning the environmental evaluation, the results obtained so far are quite encouraging with both zero waste strategies. In terms of energy efficiency, the ratio energy consumed MJ/energy produced MJ gate to gate is in the range 0.5-0.6 without allocation. For the carbon foot print, the results are better with BAB due to the recycling of steam and electricity in the plant which allows reaching 0.103 kg C02 equiv / MJ (FU) without allocation.

Lignocellulosic feedstock identification and selection in Latin America and Europe

Five countries were investigated on each continent by IICA-PROCISUR and UNIUD-DISA: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, and France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom respectively. The final selection of the feedstock was performed after investigating: 1) the biomass availability taking into account current situation with competition for other uses (soil cover, animal feeding and/or bedding and energy), 2) the chemical compositions of the preselected biomasses and 3) the concentration of feedstock at local level (within 100 km radius) to supply at least 30,000 t dry matter/year.

Argentina

Although Argentina is one of the largest producers and exporters of agricultural goods generating large amounts of residues, coming from the agricultural and agro-industrial sector, only a few were selected according to the required characteristics, availability and geographical dispersion. Precautious measures were taken into account for agricultural production systems since there are most under no tillage, cover and organic material and nutrients must be reserved in the soils in order to avoid a rapid deterioration. In the case of agro-industrial products the competitiveness with other uses, the physical and chemical characteristics and the availability in volume and dispersion during the year were the main concerns. The biomasses found as the most suitable feedstock for the production of ethanol with the CES process were corn cobs, vineyard pruning, sugar cane field residues (tops and leaves) and bagasse, and eucalyptus field and industrial residues. In less importance was wheat straw because of its relatively low amount of cellulose.

For corn cob, three departments in the province of Cordoba: Marco Juarez, Unión and Río Cuarto producing each of them over 100,000 t/year corn cob were highlighted since they could match with minimum volume availability requirements. For vineyard pruning, the provinces with higher volumes of residues were San Juan and Mendoza. Two supply basins in a 25 km radius were detected at San Martin (100,000 t/year) & Maipu (35,000 t/year) departments in the province of Mendoza. For sugar cane field residues, two supply areas for ethanol plants were identified: the north with 260,000 t/year and the south with 220,000 t/year, both in a 20 km radius. For sugar cane bagasse, a main supply basin was identified around Concepción sugar cane mill in the province of Tucuman with 100,000 t/year bagasse available in 5 km radius and almost 200,000 t/year in a 30 km radius. Eucalyptus residues, the residues are concentrated in the provinces of Corrientes and Entre Rios. Forest residues amount to 170.000 and 230.000 t/year respectively.

Brazil

With regards to chemical composition and availability, sugarcane residues (bagasse and trash) are the only feedstock convenient and currently available for ethanol production. The residues from the production chains of soybeans, maize, banana, wheat, coffee and pineapple, with suitable chemical composition which are not available now-a-days under current uses, may offer a second list of additional feedstock that have the potential of being used in the future if the production of second generation ethanol picks up. In Brazil, the most logical alternative would be to locate a production unit of second generation ethanol, in an already existing or close to processing unit of sugarcane. In this respect, there is a high concentration of industrial plants in the following states: Alagoas and Pernambuco (Northeast region), Goiás and Mato Grosso do Sul (Centre-West region), Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais (Southeast region) and Paraná (South region).

The minimum amount of residues required for the operation a 30,000 tons of dry material per year processing capacity plant is guaranteed in the following situations: if the trash is not used (or if it is unavailable), in industrial plants with processing capacity of over 2 M tons of sugarcane per season and with the use of trash, in industrial plants with processing capacity over 0.5 and 2.0 million tons of sugarcane per season. There are several industrial plants of sugarcane in Brazil with processing capacities in these ranges, located in the CO/SE/S and N/NE regions. Moreover, there are areas with high concentration of industries in these regions.

Chile

From all the materials originally considered and assessed wheat straw and corn stover field residues, vineyard and orchard pruning residues were selected as potential feedstock suitable for the production of ethanol and the CES process. Best residues supplying basins were identified: for wheat straw in the Araucania region with over 500,000 t/year and corn stover in the O’Higgins region with over 500,000 t/year. Apple and vineyard pruning residues in five regions (Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Metropolitana, O’Higgins and Maule) with amount varying from 150,000 to 280,000 t/year in each region.

Paraguay

In general, the climate of Paraguay characterized for high temperatures and humidity all year round, influences the dynamic of the degradation of organic matter left in the fields, accelerating the decomposition process which requires that most of the crop residues should not be removed from the soil for sustainability reasons. For this reason, field residues from major cultures like sugar cane, soya, wheat and corn are not collected and therefore not available for other uses. Sugarcane bagasse is the only residue produced in large quantity which is available and suitable for ethanol production and the CES process. Although it is already used to produce energy, there are seasons when there would be sufficient surplus to supply 2nd generation ethanol plants. The province of Guaira appears as the best location for the supply of bagasse with about 54,000 t/year in a 30 km radius.

Uruguay

Among a wide variety of residues of the Uruguayan agro-industry, the ones that apparently were most suitable as feedstock for the CES process were wheat, rice and forestry field residues, as well as rice and forestry industrial residues. During the chemical screening both rice residues presented a chemical composition that was not suitable for the production of ethanol with the CES process: for straw the cellulose was too low, for the hull the lignin was too high and for both of them the mineral content was too high. Although wheat straw had better chemical composition, cellulose content was slightly under the limit. So wheat straw was considered as a second choice feedstock.

Among the forestry residues, Eucalyptus presented very high cellulose content and good content for all the other compounds, except for forestry industrial residues with lignin slightly above the limit. Several departments produce sufficient biomass to supply ethanol production plant, especially Rivera, Paysandú, Río Negro and Rocha with amount available ranging from 90,000 to 140,000 t/year within a 30 km radius or less in some zones. So Eucalyptus forestry residues are considered first choice feedstock for the production of ethanol and for the CES process in Uruguay.

France

The potential net availability of lignocellulosic feedstock can amount to nearly 20 M tons equivalent dry matter. More than 50% of this feedstock is concentrated in the 6 first producing regions and 10 regions have a producing capacity above 1 M tons per year (Centre, Poitou-Charentes, Aquitaine, Bourgogne-Franche Comté, Champagne-Ardenne, Midi-Pyrénées, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Lorraine-Alsace and Normandie). All the regions except Limousine and Corse present sufficient wastes to supply one or more industrial plant with quite diversified feedstock from crops (wheat, corn, barley, rapeseed, sunflower) and vineyard pruning residues for some of them.

Germany

The potential net availability of lignocellulosic feedstock in Germany can amount to more than 10 M tons equivalent dry matter. The feedstock are much concentrated since the 4 first producing Länder (Bayern, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) could supply more than 50% of the total amount with production capacity above 1 M tons each per year. It is a much favourable condition for the cost-effectiveness of the supplying material. All the Länder, except Saarland, present sufficient feedstock to supply one or more industrial production plants with quite diversified feedstock mainly from crop residues (wheat, barley, rye, rapeseed and corn).

Italy

The potential net availability of lignocellulosic feedstock can amount to almost 6 M tons equivalent dry matter. The first 6 regions (Veneto, Piemonte, Lombardia, Sicilia, Puglia and Emilia-Romagna) totalise almost 50% of the national resources with high diversity of materials from crops (corn, sunflower, wheat) and pruning residues (vineyard and orchard), and a production capacity ranging from 500 to 900,000 tons per year.

Spain

The potential net availability of lignocellulosic feedstock could amount to almost 9 M tons equivalent dry matter. The 4 largest regions (Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha Andalucía and Aragón) concentrate 56% of the national resources which is very good in terms of transportation costs. The two central Castilian regions offer a very large production capacity with 1.7 M tons each. Spanish production is quite diversified with residues from crop (corn, wheat, sunflower, barely, oat), pruning (vineyard and orchard), forest (eucalyptus) and processing residues (oat, and sunflower hulls). Seven regions present very low supplying capacity. It is worth reminding that another 1Mton of olive processing residue (the pulp) for orujo oil is suitable for the production of ethanol but not available currently because the pulp is not separated from the husk and it is therefore burned in the orujo oil factories.

United Kingdom

The potential net availability of lignocellulosic feedstock in United Kingdom can amount to over 5 M tons equivalent dry matter. Five regions in the East and North (South East, East Midlands, East Anglia, Yorkshire and Humberside, and Scotland) concentrate 75% of the national resources which is very good in terms of transportation costs. Six regions offer a quite large production capacity in the range 0.5 to 1M tons per year. The British production is mainly composed of straws which form a quite homogeneous feedstock favourable for the biomass pre-treatment process.

Enhancing cooperation between Europe and Latin America

The cooperation between the 7 European partners and 10 Latin American partners was much effective during the project. Half of the general meetings were conducted on each continent. Each work package was developed joining resources and taking advantage of the complementary and intersectorial (research-industry) knowledge of the partners.

At the beginning of the project the know-how for the extrusion process was owned by the project leader. It was shared with the other partners along the project and now 3 research teams in three countries (France, Spain and Mexico) are able to run twin screw extruder and apply /develop the new CES process. National and PCT extension patents have been filed with co-ownership of the three partners.

When designing the project, the strategy was to incorporate in the consortium industrial and engineering partners on each continent for the design of industrial plants and evaluation of the impact on the environment. One of the main assets at the end of the project is that two industrial companies one on each continent are able to design and engineer industrial plants using the new CES process, and 2 companies one on each continent are able to evaluate environmental impacts of the ethanol plants using the new CES process. Moreover, two teams one on each continent have already identified lignocellulosic feedstock available and concentrated at local scale. It will ensure a rapid deployment of industrial plants once the new process is ready for industrialization.

Potential Impact:

Potential impact

The main objective of the project was to develop a cost-efficient and low impact on environment alternative for the pre-treatment of lignocellulosic wastes for the sustainable development of second generation ethanol production plants.

The new process is well advanced and providing further improvement of saccharification and fermentation yields during the next upgrading step to TRL (Technology Readiness Level) 6, the potential impact resulting from the industrial exploitation of the foreground will be many-fold: valorisation of many different agricultural and agro-industrial feedstock in rural and urban areas respectively, production and delivery of second generation ethanol to oil companies and creation of ethanol production plants at local/regional level from indigenous concentrations of lignocellulosic wastes.

Valorisation of agricultural and agro-industrial wastes

The project has identified all the feedstock currently available in sufficient quantities at local/regional level for the supply of industrial plants in 10 different countries.

In Europe, the total feedstock identified in 5 major countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom) amounts to 51,5 M tons/year raw dry biomass which could generate 2.5 billion €/year additional revenue to farmers and agro-food industrial companies in 72 regions.

In Latin America, the total feedstock identified in countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) amounts to 54 M tons/year which could generate 1.7 billion €/year additional revenue to farmers and agro-food industrial companies.

Production and delivery of second generation ethanol

Considering an average production yield of 0.2 m3 ethanol/ton dry biomass, the overall ethanol production would be 10 M m3 per year in the corresponding European countries and 11 M m3 per year in the corresponding Latin American countries.

Creation of ethanol production plants at local/regional levels

One of the main advantages of the new extrusion process is its capacity for designing and implementing small industrial production plants. Extrusion technology is well developed in the agro-food and polymer industries and a full range of equipment are available with small, medium and large production capacities. Taking as hypothesis for minimum production capacity 30,000 tons/year raw dry biomass, it allows creating small-medium size plants in remote rural areas or small cities for the benefit of local populations.

For instance in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay about 40 departments/districts would supply sufficient biomass for production units between 30,000 to 300,000 t/year treatment capacities. The high concentration of wastes in Brazil would allow creating much bigger size production plants in the range of 100,000-1M tons/year treatment capacity. In Europe, there would be 17 regions with high tretament capacities > 1 Mt/year, 34 regions with medium size in the range 100,000-1M tons/years and 11 regions with small size capacities of 30,000 to 100,000 t/year.

Dissemination activities

Dissemination activities have been performed during the project with mainly press releases, participation to congresses and conferences and through the partners’ web sites and the project web site.

Dissemination of results concerning the new process and its innovative aspects was voluntarily control by the steering committee in order to not create any relevant anteriority for the patents applications during the last year of the project. Now that the patents have been filed, more dissemination notably in scientific journal and conferences are foreseen in the second semester of 2013, and in 2014 once the patent publications will be available to the public (05/01/14).

Five scientific papers are under processing for publication in scientific journals in the second semester 2013.

Exploitation of results

Exploitation of the results will start immediately after the project, once all the evaluations and administrative matters of the project will have been finished.

All the partners (academic and industrial/engineering companies) are much motivated by the Technology Readiness Level upgrading of the new process from TRL 5 to 8. The three partners co-owners of the patents and the partners which will be granted licences of the new process are ready to cooperate to bring the new technology to the market as soon as possible.

The first step of TRL upgrading from 5 to 6 will be supported in terms of coordination and funding by a private French company common representative of the co-owners for the exploitation of the patents. TRL 6 will allow optimising the performances of the new process and saccharification/fermentation yields at pilot scale and reviewing the economical and environmental performances. After that, the new process will enter into demonstration and industrialisation phases either in two steps: 3,000 and upgrading to minimum 30,000 t/year raw dry biomass treatment capacity or in one industrial step to 30,000 t/year.

At this stage, the objective will be to build demonstration/industrial plants on both continents Europe and Latin America, since the technical know-how will be available on both sides of the Atlantic. France and Mexico will probably be the two first countries candidates for the creation of production units. The interest from raw material producers and their commitment to supply the ethanol production plants will be essential to decide where to locate the first industrial plants. So far, the Tequila producers in Mexico and the corn producing cooperatives in Southern France have demonstrated interest for the exploitation of the project’s results. But other countries third parties in the project in the South American cone have also express interest and should be able to provide financial support in due time.

List of Websites:

http://www.babethanol.fr

Gerard Vilarem

gerard.vilarem@ensiacet.fr