The AVAP® process which uses SO2-ethanol-water to fractionate lignocellulosics in hemicellulose sugars, degraded cellulose and sulfonated lignin may satisfy these requirements. The absence of a base (Mg, Na, etc) reduces the recovery of SO2 and ethanol to simple absorption, distillation and washing unit operations. Also, the absence of bisulfite in the fractionation solution avoids degradation of the dissolved sugars. The presence of SO2 eliminates troublesome lignin-based precipitates, hydrolyzes the hemicelluloses, and allows fractionation of a mixture of lignocellulosic biomass, including softwoods. At the same time the presence of ethanol leads to rapid impregnation of the biomass, thereby avoiding energy consuming size reduction unit operations and allowing high space velocity in the fractionation reactor. The science as well as some techno-economics of this promising omnivorous fractionation process will be discussed. Results to produce butanol from the conditioned hemicellulose fraction will be presented.
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