Platform and fine chemicals from woody biomass: Demonstration and assessment of a novel biorefinery
The aim of this study was the experimental demonstration and assessment of a novel lignocellulose biorefinery (LCB) for the integration of beech wood-based products as platform and fine chemicals. The process sequence included organosolv pulping followed by pulp bleaching, hydrothermal conversion of hemicellulose to xylose and its purification, fermentation of xylose to malic acid, and base-catalyzed lignin depolymerization (BCD). The resulting products were dissolving pulp, phenolic BCD-oligomers, and malic acid. The state of the art for these technologies is their experimental proof of concept and validation at a laboratory- and pilot-scale and has a technology readiness level (TRL) of 3–4. By integrating and optimizing the single-process steps into one LCB, the TRL could be increased to 5. Based on the findings of the experimental studies, a LCB converting 50,000 dry metric tonnes (=^ 38.7 MW) of beech wood annually was simulated with Aspen Plus. Mass and energy balances showed that 14,616 dry metric tonnes of dissolving pulp, 5174 dry metric tonnes of BCD-oligomers, and 4077 dry metric tonnes of malic acid annually could be produced. The total energy efficiency is 40.3%. The calculation of specific production costs demonstrated the marketability of dissolving pulp (1350 €/t) and BCD-oligomers (2180 €/t), whereas malic acid (4750 €/t) is not yet competitive. Environmental assessment showed reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of BCD-oligomers and malic acid and higher GHG emissions from the production of dissolving pulp compared with the reference products. In total, the examined LCB would contribute to the mitigation of global warming.