Preliminary Economics for the Production of Pyrolysis Oil from Lignin in a Cellulosic Ethanol Biorefinery

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Cellulosic ethanol biorefinery economics can be potentially improved by converting by-product lignin into high valued products. Cellulosic biomass is composed mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. In a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery, cellulose and hemicellullose are converted to ethanol via fermentation. The raw lignin portion is the partially dewatered stream that is separated from the product ethanol and contains lignin, unconverted feed and other by-products. It can be burned as fuel for the plant or can be diverted into higher-value products. One such higher-valued product is pyrolysis oil, a fuel that can be further upgraded into motor gasoline fuels. While pyrolysis ... continued below

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Jones, Susanne B. & Zhu, Yunhua April 1, 2009.

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Cellulosic ethanol biorefinery economics can be potentially improved by converting by-product lignin into high valued products. Cellulosic biomass is composed mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. In a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery, cellulose and hemicellullose are converted to ethanol via fermentation. The raw lignin portion is the partially dewatered stream that is separated from the product ethanol and contains lignin, unconverted feed and other by-products. It can be burned as fuel for the plant or can be diverted into higher-value products. One such higher-valued product is pyrolysis oil, a fuel that can be further upgraded into motor gasoline fuels. While pyrolysis of pure lignin is not a good source of pyrolysis liquids, raw lignin containing unconverted feed and by-products may have potential as a feedstock. This report considers only the production of the pyrolysis oil and does not estimate the cost of upgrading that oil into synthetic crude oil or finished gasoline and diesel. A techno-economic analysis for the production of pyrolysis oil from raw lignin was conducted. comparing two cellulosic ethanol fermentation based biorefineries. The base case is the NREL 2002 cellulosic ethanol design report case where 2000 MTPD of corn stover is fermented to ethanol (NREL 2002). In the base case, lignin is separated from the ethanol product, dewatered, and burned to produce steam and power. The alternate case considered in this report dries the lignin, and then uses fast pyrolysis to generate a bio-oil product. Steam and power are generated in this alternate case by burning some of the corn stover feed, rather than fermenting it. This reduces the annual ethanol production rate from 69 to 54 million gallons/year. Assuming a pyrolysis oil value similar to Btu-adjusted residual oil, the estimated ethanol selling price ranges from $1.40 to $1.48 (2007 $) depending upon the yield of pyrolysis oil. This is considerably above the target minimum ethanol selling price of $1.33 for the 2012 goal case process as reported in the 2007 State of Technology Model (NREL 2008). Hence, pyrolysis oil does not appear to be an economically attractive product in this scenario. Further research regarding fast pyrolysis of raw lignin from a cellulosic plant as an end product is not recommended. Other processes, such as high-pressure liquefaction or wet gasification, and higher value products, such as gasoline and diesel from fast pyrolysis oil should be considered in future studies.

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  • Report No.: PNNL-18401
  • Grant Number: AC05-76RL01830
  • DOI: 10.2172/967231 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 967231
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc932685

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  • April 1, 2009

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  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Nov. 30, 2016, 5:12 p.m.

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Jones, Susanne B. & Zhu, Yunhua. Preliminary Economics for the Production of Pyrolysis Oil from Lignin in a Cellulosic Ethanol Biorefinery, report, April 1, 2009; Richland, Washington. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc932685/: accessed November 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.