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A novel biorefinery process with material and energy circulation by reusing by-products

A novel biorefinery process with material and energy circulation by reusing by-products
The conceptual diagram of this study. Credit: Ryu Ukawa-Sato, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

The research team of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) has designed and developed a novel recycling process for producing biomass-derived chemicals by reusing the by-products of the target product. In this study, the research team demonstrated a self-sustaining process that minimizes the usage of external utilities in the chemical process by numerical simulations.

This achievement has significantly contributed to by reusing by-products, which had been disposed of in the conventional process in the to ensure profitability. In addition, while previous processes were designed on a large scale, this study was designed with a biomass supply feasible in all regions.

This is a completely different approach from conventional processes. With this achievement, we can significantly reduce petroleum usage in to establish a recycling-oriented society in the future. In addition, for regional revitalization, it is expected to create a for local production for local consumption using agricultural and forestry waste in mountainous regions.

The results have been published in Chemical Engineering Research and Design .

Biomass is the renewable carbon resource that can replace fossil resources in chemical production. Among the biomass-derived chemicals, levulinic acid (LA) is attracting attention as a platform chemical because it can be synthesized from cellulose, which makes up about 50% of woody biomass, and is a precursor for a wide range of substances from pharmaceuticals to bio-fuels.

Conventional LA production processes from biomass are large-scale processes with an annual biomass supply of more than 120,000 tons, and had challenges in effectively utilizing all biomass resources.

In response, this research team has developed a process that minimizes the supply of external utilities by reusing by-products produced during the production of LA from biomass as much as possible while still being able to supply all of the required energy from the combustion of by-products.

Specifically, by reusing the by-product as a catalyst, using a chemical called furfural obtained from biomass as an extraction solvent to purify LA, and combusting the solid by-products, the total process energy was reduced and supplied by itself. Furthermore, it was found that the excess solid by-products could be effectively utilized for and other purposes. We also found that using could provide all the cooling needed.

The amount of river water is less than 0.12% of the minimum annual volume flow in the middle reaches of the Naka River in Tochigi Prefecture, located in a rural area of Japan.

Regarding economics, the minimum selling price of LA produced by this process was $9.59 per kilogram, which was higher than the market price of $7.17 per kilogram. The reason is due to the fact that this process allows for thin profit margins to some extent, which is an advantage of large-scale processes, and also because no separation and purification of by-products are performed.

The results of this research indicate that this process can be fully implemented in society for a locally produced and consumed chemical industry using agricultural and forestry waste in mountainous regions.

More information: Ryu Ukawa-Sato et al, Design and techno–economic analysis of levulinic acid production process from biomass by using co-product formic acid as a catalyst with minimal waste generation, Chemical Engineering Research and Design (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.cherd.2023.02.046

Provided by Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

Citation: A novel biorefinery process with material and energy circulation by reusing by-products (2023, April 10) retrieved 25 September 2023 from
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