Fuels from lignocellulose biomass have a high potential to reduce GHG emissions, and hence are an important means to fulfil road transport CO2 emissions targets. They can be a reliable fuel source, which can gradually reduce the dependence on oil imports, and can constitute part of a strategic reserve. In order to reach the goals set by the European Directives and the envisioned growth of biofuels during the next decades, it is essential to efficiently utilize the available agricultural and forest residues, as well as to extend the raw material sources to novel dedicated crops. Advanced conversion technologies are needed to produce ethanol and ethanol derivatives from a wider range of resources, including lignocellulosic biomass.
Production of fuel ethanol from lignocellulose has been shown to have a significantly more positive net energy and CO2 balance than ethanol produced from grain or sugar beet. Fuel ethanol is currently made by large scale yeast fermentation of sugars originating from various annual crops (sugar cane, corn, wheat, barley). Lignocellulosic raw materials offer an attractive alternative for being abundant and not competing with food and feed production. For converting lignocellulosic biomass into sugars, enzymatic hydrolysis is presently considered as the most promising technology. This is due to the higher yields, generation of lower amounts of inhibitory compounds and the still high potential for improvement.
The main challenges for improving the hydrolysis and fermentation technologies of lignocellulosic biomass are:
- improved enzyme performance and reduction of enzyme costs
- higher yield of saccharification and co-fermentation of C5 and C6 sugars
- high density hydrolysis and fermentation; reduction of investment costs
- reduced overall process time for hydrolysis and fermentation
This project will approach these challenges by developing a new process concept which integrates the most relevant achievements in the field and focuses on the reduction of the production costs of ethanol. The overall aim is to accelerate the implementation of new second generation biofuels from lignocellulosic raw materials by overcoming the identified key bottle-necks presently hindering commercialization.