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Improved ethanol yield and reduced Minimum Ethanol Selling Price (MESP) by modifying low severity dilute acid pretreatment with deacetylation and mechanical refining: 1) Experimental

Chen, Xiaowen, Tao, Ling, Shekiro, Joseph, Mohaghaghi, Ali, Decker, Steve, Wang, Wei, Smith, Holly, Park, Sunkyu, Himmel, Michael E, Tucker, Melvin
Biotechnology for biofuels 2012 v.5 no.1 pp. 212
acetates, cell growth, cellulose, corn stover, economic feasibility, enzymatic hydrolysis, ethanol, ethanol fermentation, ethanol production, furfural, glucose, pH, production technology, refining, steam, temperature, washing
BACKGROUND: Historically, acid pretreatment technology for the production of bio-ethanol from corn stover has required severe conditions to overcome biomass recalcitrance. However, the high usage of acid and steam at severe pretreatment conditions hinders the economic feasibility of the ethanol production from biomass. In addition, the amount of acetate and furfural produced during harsh pretreatment is in the range that strongly inhibits cell growth and impedes ethanol fermentation. The current work addresses these issues through pretreatment with lower acid concentrations and temperatures incorporated with deacetylation and mechanical refining. RESULTS: The results showed that deacetylation with 0.1 M NaOH before acid pretreatment improved the monomeric xylose yield in pretreatment by up to 20% while keeping the furfural yield under 2%. Deacetylation also improved the glucose yield by 10% and the xylose yield by 20% during low solids enzymatic hydrolysis. Mechanical refining using a PFI mill further improved sugar yields during both low- and high-solids enzymatic hydrolysis. Mechanical refining also allowed enzyme loadings to be reduced while maintaining high yields. Deacetylation and mechanical refining are shown to assist in achieving 90% cellulose yield in high-solids (20%) enzymatic hydrolysis. When fermentations were performed under pH control to evaluate the effect of deacetylation and mechanical refining on the ethanol yields, glucose and xylose utilizations over 90% and ethanol yields over 90% were achieved. Overall ethanol yields were calculated based on experimental results for the base case and modified cases. One modified case that integrated deacetylation, mechanical refining, and washing was estimated to produce 88 gallons of ethanol per ton of biomass. CONCLUSION: The current work developed a novel bio-ethanol process that features pretreatment with lower acid concentrations and temperatures incorporated with deacetylation and mechanical refining. The new process shows improved overall ethanol yields compared to traditional dilute acid pretreatment. The experimental results from this work support the techno-economic analysis and calculation of Minimum Ethanol Selling Price (MESP) detailed in our companion paper.