Completion Date: Process Core: 2011; Bookends: 2012
Location: Boardman, Oregon
Our team provided design-build services for a 250,000 gallon-per-year demonstration scale cellulosic biorefining plant. The technology was developed based on acetogen fermentation.
The plant uses a hybrid biochemical and thermochemical process to create cellulosic ethanol and bio-based chemicals. The core process converts hydrolyzate to ethyl acetate by using an energy-efficient, non-distillation-based process. This core process has been book-ended on the front by a hydrolysis unit that provides hydrolyzate feed and on the back by a hydrogenation unit that converts the ethyl acetate to ethanol. A preliminary design to convert the hydrolyzate byproduct into a fuel source for a steam-powered electrical turbine was also completed.
This sustainable approach, in addition to end products flexibility such as ethanol and biochemicals, makes cellulosic biorefining a potentially viable solution for commercialization.
Acetogens had been shown to be powerful organisms in industries such as wastewater treatment before ZeaChem began using them for biobased chemicals and fuels production. Naturally occurring acetogens are highly robust and, unlike yeast, produce no carbon dioxide (CO2) during the fermentation process. This allowed ZeaChem to realize a significant efficiency and yield advantage over other processes. ZeaChem has successfully used acetogens to produce acetic acid at laboratory and pilot plant scale fermentation trials using mixed sugars as well as hydrolyzate derived from cellulosic biomass.