Sustainable Production of Cellulosic Ethanol

With growing greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector, EU institutions are looking at renewables such as biofuels to decarbonize the mobility sector. As part of the EU’s energy and climate goals for 2030, the European Commission (EC) proposed in November 2016 a revised Renewable Energy Directive with a new renewable target of at least 27 percent of the overall energy consumption in the EU. The EC’s proposal aims, in particular, to support the development and commercialization of modern biofuels produced from non-food feedstock.

The EU project LIGNOFLAG (“Commercial flagship plant for bioethanol production involving a bio-based value chain built on lignocellulosic feedstock”) will support the EU’s objectives and thus accelerate the process of decarbonizing the transport sector. The overall aim of the project is to build and operate a commercial flagship production plant for cellulosic ethanol with a yearly production capacity of up to 60,000 tons. The process is based on Clariant’s innovative sunliquid® technology. It features an integrated enzyme production process to ensure very low production costs, as well as simultaneous C5 and C6 sugar fermentation, which increases the overall ethanol yield by about 50 percent.

The product, cellulosic ethanol, is an advanced and truly sustainable biofuel which is almost carbon neutral. It is produced from agricultural residue such as wheat straw and corn stover, which will be provided by local farmers. Thus the new bioethanol plant will generate green jobs and economic growth in rural areas that might be struggling with underemployment and economic downturn. 

From June 2017 to May 2022, the LIGNOFLAG project receives 24.7 million Euro funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 709606. By setting up a commercial flagship plant for the sustainable production of cellulosic ethanol, the project will foster the transition towards a post-petroleum society in Europe.

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