Ethanol from Sugarcane Lignocellulosic Residues - Opportunities for Process Improvement and Production Cost Reduction

Stefano Macrelli

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandling (sammanläggning)

331 Nedladdningar (Pure)


Popular Abstract in English
Modern society is still largely based on fossil resources. However, there are growing concerns about the security and cost of these resources, as well as climate change resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels. Biofuels represent renewable fuels with the potential to mitigate the adverse effects of fossil fuels, providing a more sustainable alternative.
The transport sector in Brazil currently relies mainly on first generation (1G) fuel ethanol produced from the fermentation of the sugar fraction of sugarcane, and is considered a successful example of biofuel penetration and replacement of fossil fuels. Theoretically, almost double the amount of ethanol could be produced if the residues from the sugarcane industry, namely the bagasse and leaves, were also used as feedstock. Bagasse and leaves constitute the lignocellulosic fraction of sugarcane, and the ethanol obtained from these materials is known as second generation (2G) ethanol or lignocellulosic ethanol. However, lignocellulose is made up of a complex matrix containing the three constituents, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, which are strongly bound to each other. For this reason, it is more difficult to break down lignocellulose to fermentable sugars, than sucrose or starch, and the production process is thus more complex and costly. High production costs are
the major drawback of the 2G ethanol production process, delaying the
deployment of commercial-scale facilities. Many production parameters and economic factors influence the final cost of 2G ethanol, and several technological options and trade-offs can be explored and analysed in order to improve the competitiveness of 2G ethanol.
The aim of the work presented in this thesis was to analyse the production of 2G ethanol from sugarcane bagasse and leaves in Brazil, and to identify opportunities for reducing the production cost by considering process designs and factors affecting the cost. Simulation of the ethanol production process was the major tool used, together with laboratory experiments for interesting cases.
The availability of bagasse at 1G ethanol production sites and local
availability of leaves makes it favourable to co-locate 2G ethanol plants with existing 1G ethanol plants. The two processes can be combined in a plant where process and energy streams are integrated. Producing 1G and 2G ethanol in an integrated plant can provide a reduction in the cost of 2G ethanol, and more efficient energy use. Such an integrated ethanol production plant can be regarded as an ethanol-oriented biorefinery, where electricity is also produced from the combustion of residual streams, namely biogas and unreacted lignocellulose. Maximizing 2G ethanol production was found to be
more profitable than selling electricity. However, the additional cost of achieving a high conversion of bagasse and leaves to 2G ethanol depends on the strategies employed as well as the degree of conversion. A range of options with different technical feasibility and the most relevant production factors were studied. The process configuration can be designed to tackle specific issues, but experimental data are necessary to prove the feasibility of the concept both technically and economically. Experiments were performed to collect data for a few process configurations, and simulations showed that in some cases the production cost involved in improving the ethanol production was too high to be commercially feasible. External economic factors, such as the selling prices of electricity and ethanol,and the cost of feedstock and biocatalyst also appeared to have a considerable effect on the profitability of 2G ethanol.
In none of the cases investigated the combination of technical options and economic factors was found that could reduce the production cost of 2G ethanol from bagasse and leaves to that of 1G ethanol without subsidies. However, 2G ethanol could be cheaper than 1G ethanol if selling prices were lower for electricity and higher for ethanol. Moreover, 2G ethanol could also contribute to achieve better profitability than producing 1G ethanol and electricity. Finally, there is considerable scope for further reductions in cost
that could improve the competitiveness of 2G ethanol on the fuel market.
Tilldelande institution
  • Institutionen för kemiteknik
  • Wallberg, Ola, handledare
  • Galbe, Mats, handledare
Tilldelningsdatum2014 okt. 3
ISBN (tryckt)978-91-7623-087-9 (print), 978-91-7623-088-6 (pdf)
StatusPublished - 2014

Bibliografisk information

Defence details

Date: 2014-10-03
Time: 10:30
Place: Lecture hall B at the Center of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Getingevägen 60, Lund University Faculty of Engineering, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Bonomi, Antonio
Title: Dr
Affiliation: Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory (CTBE), Campinas, SP, Brazil


Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Kemiteknik


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