An Integrated Lipid-Based Platform for “Drop-In” Fuel Biorefinery

Sustainable Engineering Forum
2011 AIChE Annual Meeting
AIChE Annual Meeting
October 18, 2011 - 8:00pm
A major challenge in developing biorefinery is that the availability of biomass often limits the scale of the plant thus the feasibility of an operation. We proposed an integrated lipid-based platform as one technical option. According to this concept, different biomass resources will be first converted to lipid as a common feedstock, then the lipid produced in distributed sites will be transported to a central refinery for upgrading to “drop-in” fuel. The lipid can be produced not only from phototrophic algae, but also from lignocelluloses by oleaginous yeast, fungi, and heterotrophic algae. Such an integrated platform has several major advantages. First, it solves the winter lipid production problem in the northern states. As the phototrophic algae growth stops in the cold season, lipid will be produced continuously by using crop residues and organic wastes to assure year round production. Second, converting various biomasses to lipid as a common biofuel intermediate allows aggregation of diverse feedstock types to maximize the quantity of biofuel produced in a given area to achieve the economy of scale. Third, sufficient amount of available lipid feedstock will become attractive for building a biorefinery to further process the lipids into “drop-in” fuel products. In seeking for technical solutions to support the implementation of this concept, we found mixotrophic algae can improve phototrophical productivity. We also found that oleaginous yeast can utilize almost all the sugars in the hydrolysate resulted from dilute acid pretreatment without the need for detoxification. We further found that some fungi have even more desirable characteristics for lipid production than yeast and algae. This presentation will give an overview of the integrated lipid platform concept and highlight significant findings.
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