Document Type : Research Paper
Universidad Nacional de Colombia sede Manizales, Instituto de Biotecnología y Agroindustria, Laboratorio de Equilibrios Químicos y Cinética Enzimática, Departamento de Ingeniería Química, Manizales, Colombia.
School of Chemical Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, 9 Iroon Polytechniou Str., Zographou Campus, GR-15780, Athens, Greece.
Butanol is an important compound used as a building block for producing value-added products and an energy carrier. The main butanol production pathways are conventional acetone–butanol–ethanol (ABE) fermentation and catalytic upgrading of ethanol. On the other hand, the application of biomass as a promising substrate for biofuel production has been widely considered recently. However, few studies have compared different butanol production pathways using biomass as raw material. In light of that, the present work aims (i) to provide a short review of the catalytic ethanol upgrading and (ii) to compare conventional ABE fermentation and catalytic ethanol upgrading processes from the economic and environmental perspectives. Aspen Plus v9.0 was used to simulate both processes. The economic and environmental assessments were carried out considering the Colombian economic context, a gate-to-gate approach, and single impact categories. Considering a processing scale of 1000 ton/d, the conventional ABE fermentation process presented a more favorable technical, economic, and environmental performance for butanol production from biomass. It also offered lower net energy consumption (i.e., 57.9 GJ/ton of butanol) and higher butanol production (i.e., 2.59 ton/h). Nevertheless, the proposed processing scale was insufficient to reach economic feasibility for both processes. To overcome this challenge, the minimum processing scale had to be higher than 1584 ton/d and 1920 ton/d for conventional ABE fermentation and catalytic ethanol upgrading, respectively. Another critical factor in enhancing the economic feasibility of both butanol production pathways was the minimum selling price of butanol. More specifically, prices higher than 1.56 USD/kg and 1.80 USD/kg would be required for conventional ABE fermentation and catalytic ethanol upgrading, respectively. From the environmental impact point of view, the conventional ABE fermentation process led to a lower potential environmental impact than catalytic ethanol upgrading (0.12 PEI/kg vs. 0.18 PEI/kg, respectively).
- ABE fermentation showed a better economic performance than catalytic ethanol upgrading.
- Hydroxyapatite was selected as the best catalyst to upgraded ethanol.
- ABE fermentation was found a more sustainable process environmentally than catalytic ethanol upgrading.
- Improved kinetic models to describe the catalytic upgrading of ethanol are needed.