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Current (2011) production of second generation fuel ethanol

To date most fuel ethanol produced comes from first generation processes and volumes produced in 2009 rose to 76 billion liters for the year. Most fuel ethanol produced from second generation processes involving biomass are currently produced in pilot and demonstration plants and this technology has not been extensively established. There are a number of commercial plants that are planned for the future as well as a number of plants for which construction has begun. So far the following companies that i have come across have established second generation production facilities are:

1. Iogen – based in Canada, this company opened its demonstration facility in 2004 and is capable of handling 30 tons of biomass per day which corresponds to 5000 – 6000L of cellulosic ethanol per day. Their technology is based on a modified steam explosion process followed by enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation.

2. Inbicon – based in Denmark, this company opened its first pilot plant in 2003 capable of processing 2.4 metric tonnes of biomass per day. In 2005 a new plant capable of handling 24 metric tonnes of biomass per day. Their technology is based on hydrothermal pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass at around 180-200ºC for 5-15 minutes, followed by enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation.

3. Weyland Bioethanol – Opened in October 2010, this company has set up a pilot plant in Normway operating a concentrated acid hydrolysis process. The plant has a capacity equivelent to around 200 000 Litres per year of bio-ethanol.

Inbicon Hydrothermal Pretreatment plant

If you have any information regarding other demonstration of commercial second generation bio-ethanol refineries please let me know.

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Process Routes for 2nd Generation Ethanol fuel

Two different routes can be taken to produce second generation bio-ethanol. Both are able to produce the same final product but require completely different capital equipment and have different advantages and disadvantages.

The first route is the thermochemical route in which the biomass is gasified in a gasification process to produce synthetic gas comprising of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The syn gas is then either bubbled through a specially designed fermenter in which genetically engineered organisms convert the syngas to ethanol. Otherwise the syngas is fed into a reactor containing a catalyst responsible for converting the gas into fuel ethanol.

The second route is via the biochemical route in which the biomass is first pretreated to expose and open up the lignocellulosic matrix to enzymatic attack. Following pretreatment, enzymes hydrolysis available carbohydrates into sugar monomers which are then fermented to ethanal. The final product from ethanol is then distilled to seperate out the ethanol which will be utilised as fuel ethanol. A number of pretreatment strategies as well as seperate and combined enzymatic hydrolysis strategies are available for this process route.

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Welcome to my new blog. This is something that I have been meaning to start for a while but have been lacking inspiration. Recently I started a new job at the University of Stellenbosch involving research and development in the field of Biofuel’s and I thought that this would be a great topic to blog about. I hope you enjoy and find the posts on this site informative and interesting. I will try to keep my blogs focussed on the world of biofuels and specifically what is happening with regards to 2nd generation biofuels.

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