(624c) Sustainable Process Design for Biomass-Derived Platform Chemical γ-Valerolactone from Levulinic Acid

Authors: 
Scheffczyk, J. D., Institute of Technical Thermodynamics
Palkovits, R., RWTH Aachen University
Bardow, A., RWTH Aachen University

A promising candidate for bio-based platform chemicals is γ-valerolactone (GVL) [1]. GVL has benign properties for the use as fuel additive, renewable solvent and intermediate for chemicals and fuels [2].

Recently, GVL has been successfully synthesized by liquid-phase hydrogenation of levulinic acid (LA) [3]. Reactions have been improved by ruthenium catalysts and short-chained alcohol solvents [4]. Currently, reaction selectivity and yield have been the sole basis for solvent selection. However, especially for processes based on biomass, sustainability and the feasibility of large-scale production are crucial.

In this work, process concepts are therefore presented for the production of the platform chemical GVL. Thus, both reaction and separation schemes are developed. Key parameters like the energy and solvent usage are analyzed as function of possible feed conditions. Suitable process concepts are selected.

Possibilities for process integration are then explored – mainly focusing on heat integration and solvent recycling. This leads to an overall reduction of energy consumption, especially in separation steps.

As a result, this study reveals requirements and challenges for the development of large scale production concepts of GVL. It defines targets for new catalysts and solvents from a process point of view.

Literature

[1]     Horváth, I. T.; Mehdi, H.; Fábos, V.; Boda, L.; Mika, L. T.: γ-Valerolactone—a sustainable liquid for energy and carbon-based chemicals. Green Chemistry 10 (2008) 2, 238–42.

[2]     Serrano-Ruiz, J. C.; Braden, D. J.; West, R. M.; Dumesic, J. A.: Conversion of cellulose to hydrocarbon fuels by progressive removal of oxygen. In: Applied Catalysis B: Environmental 100 (2010) 1-2, S. 184–89.

[3]     Wright, W. R. H.; Palkovits, R.: Development of Heterogeneous Catalysts for the Conversion of Levulinic Acid to γ-Valerolactone. In: ChemSusChem 5 (2012) 9, S. 1657–67.

[4]     Al-Shaal, M. G.; Wright, W. R. H.; Palkovits, R.: Exploring the ruthenium catalysed synthesis of γ-valerolactone in alcohols and utilisation of mild solvent-free reaction conditions. Green Chemistry 14 (2012) 5, 1260–63.