Description: The alcohol fuels program consists of in-house and subcontracted research for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into fuel alcohols via thermoconversion and bioconversion technologies. In the thermoconversion area, the SERI gasifier has been operated on a one-ton per day scale and produces a clean, medium-Btu gas that can be used to manufacture methanol with a relatively small gas-water shift reaction requirement. Recent research has produced catalysts that make methanol and a mixture of higher alcohols from the biomass-derived synthetic gas. Three hydrolysis processes have emerged as candidates for more focused research. They are: a high-temperature, dilute-acid, plug-flow approach based on the Dartmouth reactor; steam explosion pretreatment followed by hydrolysis using the RUT-C30 fungal organism; and direct microbial conversion of the cellulose to ethanol using bacteria in a single or mixed culture. Modeling studies, including parametric and sensitivity analyses, have recently been completed. The results of these studies will lead to a better definition of the present state-of-the-art for these processes and provide a framework for establishing the research and process engineering issues that still need resolution. In addition to these modeling studies, economic feasibility studies are being carried out by commercial engineering firms. Their results will supplement and add commercial validity to the program results. The feasibility contractors will provide input at two levels: Technical and economic assessment of the current state-of-the-art in alcohol production from lignocellulosic biomass via thermoconversion to produce methanol and higher alcohol mixtures and bioconversion to produce ethanol; and identification of research areas having the potential to significantly reduce the cost of production of alcohols.
Date: October 1, 1984
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