Lignocellulosic Bioethanol Production

One of the hot topics today in Europe and in the wider-world is the potential of ligno-cellulosic bioethanol, i.e. using lignin and cellulosic rich feedstocks such as trees, energy crops such as fast growing grasses like miscanthus.  This means a far greater source of biomass can be used for bioethanol production in more areas of the world than for sugar or cereal ethanol feedstock crops and importantly the threat of biofuels competing for land with food crops is negated completely.  Sustainably managed forests, crop residues and energy crops can provide a substantial source for lignocellulosic bioethanol.

The complexity of this so called “Second Generation biofuel” is greater than traditional feedstocks and at the moment it is more expensive due to the added processing and more costly enzymes involved in production.  However, it is far more favorably regarded by politicians, especially in the EU, as a CO2 friendly alternative to fossil transport fuels than corn, wheat or sugar beet bioethanol.

The main processes: Biomass Feedstock, Pre-treatment, Hydrolysis, Fermentation to Ethanol – are shown in the two diagrams below.  You can also download the diagram as one by clicking here.

Image Source: US Department of Energy – Genome Management Information System