Innovation: Integration of Biology and Engineering into an Economical and Energy-Efficient 2G Bioethanol Biorefinery

Last update: 29.06.2013
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energy storage, energy saving, electricity generation, other energy topics, biofuels, energy transport, environmental protection
The European Union has set a 10 % mandatory target for the share of renewables (including bio-fuels) in transportation sector by 2020 in Europe. To achieve this goal sustainable bio-fuels from lignocellulosic biomass must deploy in Europe very soon since the competition between food vs. energy prevents further (significant) increase on the current first-generation biofuels already in the market. This new generation of bio-fuels still needs intensive efforts on R&D to fulfil significant GHG reductions in the production chain and to represent an alternative to food-crops derived fuels. Additionally, the use of agricultural residues, industrial or domestic wastes will improve significantly the environmental performance of 2G bio-fuels.

The project will focus on the effective integration and development of advanced technologies through the combined use of Biology and Engineering for the production of second generation (2G) bio-ethanol, from the most representatives European (wheat straw) and Brazilian (sugarcane bagasse and straw) feed stocks.

The research activities will be concentrated in the following areas:
i) Feedstock pre-treatment
ii) conversion technologies to second generation (2G) bioethanol
iii) conversion technologies (using the bioprocess-derived materials) for electricity and other added-value materials
iv) full process integration and sustainability assessment.
The effective combination of pre-treatment, enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation using adapted and robust strains displaying new phenotype features, is a clear objective of this proposal since is the key to the economic lignocellulosic ethanol production.

At the end of the project, we aim to get a meaningful technological process integration of :
i) For Europe: energy-efficient production of bio-ethanol and electricity from 100% of wheat straw
ii) For Brazil: energy-efficient production of bio-ethanol, sugar and electricity from 100% utilization of sugarcane crop, including the parts hitherto.


PROETHANOL2G aims to get a meaningful technological process integration of :
i) For Europe: energy-efficient production of bio-ethanol and electricity from 100% of wheat straw
ii) For Brazil: energy-efficient production of bio-ethanol, sugar and electricity from 100% utilization of sugarcane crop, including the parts hitherto.
PROETHANOL2G bases its conceptual 2G bioethanol biorefinery on INBICONs demo plant in Kalundborg, Denmark, and on its IBUS technology. The research activities on hydrothermal pretreatment (WP2) have been developed by DTU in the mini-IBUS system (the down-scaled INBICONs system), which is now fully operational. The optimisation of wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse processing has been performed in batch and assessed through Standard operational procedures (SOPs) for enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation settled and validated in the framework of this project. In parallel, INBICON is performing large-scale campaigns in 2012 with sugarcane bagasse and wheat straw and providing pre-treated material to PROETHANOL2G partners. These pre-treated materials are characterised by low content in pretreatment degradation products.

Also, in the scope of WP2, innovative pretreatments, using ionic liquids, are being assessed in fractioning wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse.

In the framework of biomass conversion technologies for 2G bioethanol (WP3), the interaction with the Brazilian consortium has been progressing on:

- the assessment of novel enzyme cocktails (BIOMM);
- the screening of novel cellulolytic and hemicellulolytic microbial strains;
- the screening of novel and efficient C5-fermenting non-conventional yeasts.

According to the first results obtained by LNEG, CIEMAT and DTU, novel enzyme cocktails from BIOMM are as effective as commercial cocktails provided by specialised companies. During the screening of novel microbial strains, a novel C5-fermenting non-conventional yeast, Spathaspora passalidarum UFMG-HMD-1.1, revealed superior xylose fermentation capacity and a xylose reductase activity with preference for NADH.

In parallel, ULUND has been screening industrial Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains towards robust fermentation capacity in hydrolysates produced from hydrothermal pretreatments. The best strains will be used for heterologous expression of xylose assimilation pathway from Sp. passalidarum.

CIEMAT is contributing to integration of enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation by means of simultaneous Saccharification and fermentation (SSF) approaches. The main objective is to work at high solids (20 % w / w and above) and with minimum enzyme and yeast loading. Under those conditions, CIEMAT reaches ethanol concentrations higher than 50 g / L in 72 h.

Distillation is assessed in WP4 using a novel energy efficient diabatic vacuum distillation system operating at low temperature which, simultaneously avoids thermal inactivation of the cellulolytic enzymes. The potential market in Brazil for the novel diabatic vacuum distillation system has been evaluated.

WP5 aims at contributing for 100 % utilisation of plant feedstock with the most cost and energy efficient 2G bioethanol biorefinery, minimising CO2 emissions. Therefore, the activities tackled the development of technologies for residues upgrading ? lignin as valuable market product, lignin/solids for electricity and wastewaters for value added products through electrochemical processes.

The solid residue (wet cake) produced by INBICON is being used by GreenValue for lignin recovery and purification and further assessment for end-use applications. Simultaneously, LNEG is evaluating gasification properties of the same residue towards electricity production.

Wastewaters from 2G bioethanol biorefinery is being used by UGent for high value production pathways of biochemicals such as butyrate and caproate by means of electrochemical systems.

Process integration and Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is being performed in WP6 by EPFL, while environmental and social impact is being addressed by FRAUNHOFER in WP7. The major goal is to perform a sustainability assessment of EU / Brazilian 2G bioethanol plants using wheat straw/sugarcane bagasse and considering integration of 2G into 1G bioethanol in Brazil. IBUS concept is used as reference case and several alternatives will be considered according to project technological breakthroughs.
According to the progress of PROETHANOL2G project the following final results are expected:

- optimisation of IBUS (and min-IBUS) systems for efficient processing of wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse;
- assessment of the use of ionic liquids in the processing and fractionation of wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse;
- generation of competitive enzyme cocktails optimised for enzymatic hydrolysis of wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse;
- generation of novel industrial pentose-fermenting S. cerevisiae strains adapted to the fermentation of IBUS pre-treated material;
- generation of novel industrial S. cerevisiae expressing enzymes for hydrolysis of oligosaccharides;
- efficient enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation under high solids loading (above 25 % w / w);
- comparison of different process configurations for enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation processes;
- implementation of novel energy efficient diabatic vacuum distillation system operating at low temperature and recovery of enzymes;
- identification of the best route for solid residues upgrading (CHP, gasification or lignin recovery as marketable product);
- feasibility assessment of wastewaters to fatty acids;
- assessment of integration of 2G into 1G bioethanol biorefinery in Brazil using IBUS-like technology.

The protection and exploitation of the foreground knowledge will be considered for its integration into next generation products and services of the industrial partners. Namely, the exploitation of results will be / is being considered namely by INBICON and HOLM regarding the implementation of their technology in Brazil (IBUS and novel diabatic vacuum distillation system, respectively) and by GV regarding the use of residual solids from INBICON to recover and purify lignin to be used as a valuable marketable product.

PROETHANOL2G intends to contribute to the deployment of 2G bioethanol in Brazil, with significant environmental, social and economic impact. Sustainability, impacts and feasibility is already being assessed in the framework of PROETHANOL2G.

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This innovation is the result of the project

Title: Integration Of Biology And Engineering Into An Economical And Energy-Efficient 2g Bioethanol Biorefinery


01.11.2010 to 31.10.2013

completed project

Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.

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Role in project: Project Coordination

Contact person: Dr. CARVALHO Ana Claudia

Phone: +351210924796




Contact person: Ms. COLLADOS Ana


Phone: +34-913466096




Contact person: Ms. JOHANSEN Irene


Phone: +45-45251119




Contact person: Dr. GNANSOUNOU Edgard


Phone: +41-216930627




Contact person: Mr. KRAUSE Walter


Phone: +49 89 12052713




Contact person: Dr. LORA Jairo


Phone: +41-21-3187515




Contact person: Ms. CHRISTENSEN Inger Lise

Phone: +45-49709882




Contact person: Mr. HENRIKSEN Niels

Phone: +45-99552087




Contact person: Ms. JOHANSSON Birgit


Phone: +46-462229305




Contact person: Ms. VAN DE PITTE Nathalie


Phone: +32-92643029