Biorefinery Process Development

 

Funding:

EU commission through the FP6 Integrated Project BIOSYNERGY

Background

The supply of energy sources in the world is nowadays facing increasing demand from the developed countries and booming demand from the developing ones. An almost constant raise of oil prices have been registered during the last decade, moreover security of supply is clearly turning to be an issue for most of the western governments.

High oil prices scenarios also get along with people's increasing demand for a sustainable and environmental friendly development and with the growing concern for global warming and climate change.

Both in the EU and in the USA, during the last years, policies have been promoted for emissions abatement and exploitation of renewable resources, leading towards a more efficient use of energy and seek for alternative solutions.

Research and technology development is a key issue for the achievement of both more efficient use of energy and increasing share of renewable sources in the production of energy carriers, chemicals and materials.

Within the natural resources biomass is certainly one of the more promising ones, being a carbon carrier suitable for potentially sustainable production of transportation fuels and chemicals intermediates. It is wide spread and largely available worldwide and, with some restriction, can be considered a renewable and sustainable resource.

The average price of biomass feedstock if expressed in terms of energy content USD/GJ has been estimated to correspond to oil price between 15 and 25 USD/barrel, that means around 15% of the average price during the last months! Nevertheless the use of biomass for the production of transportation fuels, and to a lesser extent energy, is still more costly than the use of traditional petrochemical resources. This calls for scientific research and technological development in the direction of both greener and market competitive procedures to make biomass a feasible choice as feedstock in the future chemical and energy industries.

Sustainable management of Europe's natural resources and their integration with human activities, specifically in the bio-energy, fuels and chemical industry, motivate the research proposed for the FP6 IP BIOSYNERGY in which ET section is involved. The aim of the project is to achieve sound techno-economic process development of integrated production of chemicals, transportation fuels and energy, from lab-scale to pilot plant. This project will be instrumental in the foreseen establishment of facilities for integrated production of bulk quantities of chemicals, fuels and energy from a wide range of biomass feedstocks.

Objectives

Furfural is a chemical compound readily accessible from the hemicellulosic fraction of biomass by treatment in acidic conditions. It has a considerable market of about 300 kt/year, being nowadays one of the most important biomass derived chemicals.

It is well known from literature that C5 sugars like D-Xylose are converted quantitatively into furfural in acidic condition, but many aspects of the reaction have still to be cleared. Data about kinetic of reaction are sometimes missing or showing inconsistencies between different works.

In a modern biorefinery concept furfural production can play a strategic role being potentially a valuable way of adding value to the hemicellulose contained in biomass, which is often considered as a waste, and in this sense a deeper understanding of the chemistry of furfural is needed.

 

Adapted from: Kamm, B.; Gruber, P. R.; Kamm, M. - Biorefineries - Industrial Processes and Products, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2006
 

Objective of this work are an experimental assessment of the kinetics of D-Xylose reaction into Furfural, side reactions and Furfural destruction mechanism in the same environment. To this aim an experimental setup has been designed and realized and analysis methods have been optimized either using Liquid and Gas Chromatography.

Work programme

Main topics to be addressed in the work are: