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Development of an enzyme cocktail to bioconvert untapped starch in sweet sorghum processing by-products: Part II. Application and economic potential

Klasson K. Thomas, Marsha R. Cole, Bretlyn T. Pancio, Matthew Heckemeyer
Industrial crops and products 2022 v.176 no. pp. 114370
bioethanol, biomass, byproducts, capital costs, cost effectiveness, distillation, energy costs, energy crops, enzymatic hydrolysis, enzymes, ethanol, feeds, fermentation, glucose, harvest date, hydrolysis, juices, models, sediments, starch, sweet sorghum
Demand for bioethanol and other biochemicals produced from agricultural crops has increased. Sweet sorghum has been identified as a promising bioenergy crop as it can produce starch, sugar, and fibrous biomass. During processing, starch accumulates in the juice sediments and clarification mud. And, while currently not recovered, it can be made accessible for fermentation by enzymatic hydrolysis. The enzymatic hydrolysis of starch in sweet sorghum processing streams was investigated, followed by fermentation of the resulting glucose to ethanol. The juice sediment contained sufficient starch to increase fermentable sugars by 127%, allowing a final ethanol titer of 11.1 vol%. The economics for fermentation of only dissolved sugars (Scenario 1) versus dissolved sugars and hydrolyzed starch (Scenario 2) were compared using a technoeconomic model. Fixed capital cost was found to be similar for both scenarios. For a set harvest period, Scenario 2 could produce 20% more ethanol; however, if the distillation by-product was dried and marketed as animal feed, Scenario 1 was more cost effective. A plant producing 5.6–5.7 Mkg of fuel ethanol per year had a minimum selling price of $0.67/kg of ethanol with concurrent production of animal feed and zero cost sweet sorghum processing. Even with these optimistic assumptions, the estimated production cost was higher than the current wholesale price of fuel ethanol.