Wednesday 6th November 2013 at 9am in B3-022(a)
SECOND GENERATION BIOREFINING
Potential for Major Sustainable Indigenous Industries
Michael H.B. Hayes
Carbolea Research Group
University of Limerick
Our soils and our climate, our greatest natural resource, provide us with the facilities to produce an abundance of food, and also lignocellulosic biomass to supply the raw materials that can enable us to loose our dependence on imported fossil fuels and to establish ‘green’ manufacturing industries not based on petrochemicals.
First generation biorefining utilises foodstuffs to produce ethanol as a petroleum additive, and vegetable oils as diesel additives. The objectives of Second Generation Biorefining (SGB) are to utilise agricultural residues, such as straws and forestry thinnings, as well as lignocellulosic energy crops to give similar type products.
Work at Carbolea recovers the cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin components from the energy crop Miscanthus x giganteus. The hemicellulose is a source of furfural, a valuable platform chemical, and new uses are being found for the pure lignin isolated. The cellulose can be enzymatically hydrolysed to glucose and fermented to ethanol. Ethanol is a poor fuel, and has severe limitations as a platform chemical. Our focus is on the production of levulinic acid from which we get the fuels sourced in petroleum and almost all of the products now sourced in petrochemicals. Miscanthus is an environmentally friendly crop to grow, and can provide a better income for the grower than any other large scale farming endeavour at this time. The Carbolea process can produce levulinic acid at a cost competitive with that of Brent crude oil.