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Joint project "Biochemically-catalytically produced biofuels"

 

This joint project aims to develop the technology to produce renewable alkanes and α-olefins from lignocellulosic biomass through subsequent biochemical and catalytic conversion processes applicable to production routes of the chemical industry. The resulting assessments and recommendations will form a basis for industry investment and policy decisions.

Project description (ongoing research project)

Alkanes and α-olefins are the two most important molecular families derived for use as fuels and chemicals, and can be directly integrated into existing distribution networks. Social resistance can be minimised through the production of exact (i.e. "drop-in") replacements for fossil-based fuels and chemicals. Using agri-forestry residues (e.g. corn stover, mixed grasses, beech wood) as feedstock is particularly attractive as these are by-products without current competing usages for food and feed applications, and enable a significant potential for greenhouse gas reduction.

Aim

The joint project aims to develop the technology to produce renewable alkanes and α-olefins from lignocellulosic biomass through subsequent biochemical and catalytic conversion processes. The sub-projects encompass the two main conversion processes, as well as the sustainability assessment along the entire value chain:

  • production of carboxylic acids (lactic acid, butyric acid, mixed volatile fatty acids) from lignocellulosic biomass by adapting a consolidated bioprocess employing a microbial consortium, which has been developed for cellulosic ethanol production,
  • building a systematic conversion platform for these carboxylic acids. For this purpose, a group of carboxylic acids consisting of free fatty acids ranging in length from acetic to hexanoic acids will be converted to alkanes and α-olefins,
  • holistic feasibility and sustainability assessment including a broader scenario of feedstocks and target products along the entire value chain – from the logistics of feedstocks to final use of products.

The target audience comprises the industry sector as well as academics and policymakers. The targeted products will be particularly attractive for the petrochemicals market. The resulting assessments and recommendations will form a basis for industry investment and policy decisions.

Relevance

Producing biomass-derived alkanes and α-olefins could both directly and indirectly increase the fraction of renewable energy by providing exact replacements for commonly used liquid fuels and carbon-based chemicals. Targeting multiple products and co-products such as fuels and bulk chemicals will make the combined biochemical-catalytic bio-refinery approach economically more attractive and thus more likely to be implemented on a significant scale. The concept will therefore both directly and indirectly facilitate the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Original title

Production of fuels and commodity chemicals through subsequent biochemical and catalytic conversion of lignocellulosic biomass

Principal Investigators

Leader of the joint project

  • Dr. Michael Hans-Peter Studer, Hochschule für Agrar-, Forst- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften, Berner Fachhochschule, Zollikofen

Deputy leader of the joint project

  • Dr. Doris Herrmann, Hochschule für Agrar-, Forst- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften, Berner Fachhochschule, Zollikofen

Sub-projects

The joint project consists of three research projects

Consolidated bioprocessing of lignocellulosic biomass for production of lactic acid and mixed carboxylic acids as fuel precursor

  • Dr. Michael Hans-Peter Studer, Hochschule für Agrar-, Forst- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften, Berner Fachhochschule, Zollikofen

Catalytic upgrading of biomass-derived carboxylic acids for fuel and chemical production

  • Prof. Jeremy Luterbacher, Laboratoire des procédés durables et catalytiques Institut des sciences et ingénierie chimique, EPF Lausanne

Sustainability evaluation of biorefinery systems for fuel and commodity chemical generation from plant residues

  • Dr. Jan Hendrik Grenz, Hochschule für Agrar-, Forst- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften, Berner Fachhochschule, Zollikofen; Prof. Stefanie Hellweg, Dr. Bernhard Streit

 

 

Further information on this content

 Contact

Dr. Michael Hans-Peter Studer Hochschule für Agrar-,
Forst- und Lebensmittel-
wissenschaften HAFL
Berner Fachhochschule BFH
Länggasse 85 3052 Zollikofen +41 31 910 29 36 michael.studer1@bfh.ch

Products of the project