(719e) Levulinic Acid as a Platform Chemical for the Production of Hydrocarbon Fuels From Lignocellulosic Biomass

Braden, D. J. - Presenter, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Henao, C. A. - Presenter, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Maravelias, C. T. - Presenter, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Dumesic, J. A. - Presenter, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The conversion of biomass to produce fuels, power, and chemicals, involves a balance between production of high-value chemicals with production of lower-value, but higher-volume transportation fuels, leading to profitable operations to meet energy demand. In this respect, levulinic acid has been identified as potential platform chemical that can be produced from agricultural waste and can lead to specialty chemicals and fuel additives. Utilizing this versatile molecule, we have developed a levulinic acid-based cascade catalytic approach to convert solid cellulose into liquid hydrocarbon fuels for use in the transportation sector (gasoline, Diesel and jet fuel).

One of the greatest challenges in utilizing biomass as a feedstock is selectively deconstructing the resilient cellulose polymers. Our proposed process includes an improved strategy for the deconstruction of cellulose in an aqueous solution of sulfuric acid to produce levulinic acid and formic acid. An integral reaction step follows in which formic acid is converted to CO2 and H2 which is used to reduce levulinic acid to ?×-valerolactone. The resulting concentrated stream of ?×-valerolactone can be converted to building-block olefin species, specifically butene, which can be selectively oligomerized to produce larger molecular weight olefins with specific chain length ideal for use in gasoline and jet fuels.

We have adopted a process system analysis approach to determine process schemes with economic potential. To this end, process simulation and detailed capital and operational cost calculations were carried out based on reaction yield and catalyst activity data for each of the mentioned chemical transformations. Finally, we note that this catalytic approach to convert cellulose into liquid transportation fuels can be employed synergistically in a biorefinery with other approaches for conversion of the hemi-cellulose and lignin fractions of biomass, thereby offering new opportunities for the effective utilization of renewable ligno-cellulose resources. An economic comparison with a lingo-cellulosic ethanol production facility reveals the potential feasibility of the levulinic acid-based cascade catalytic approach