ECN publication
An evaluation of three routes for the production of liquid fuels from biomass
Published by: Publication date:
ECN 1-4-1997
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-R--97-001 Other
Number of pages: Full text:
38 Download PDF  

As part of an ECN Policy Studies project to assess the availability andprocurement of biomass in the Netherlands, the perspectives of three different options for the production of liquid transportation fuels from biomass have been evaluated. The options considered are: ethanol from biomass, methanol from biomass, and bio-diesel from micro-algae. The first two options, ethanol and methanol, are mutual competitors, a comparison of both options is therefore included. Ethanol production from sugar and starch containing crops is a well developed technique. Conversion of the (hemi)cellulose fraction of biomass requires further development. Commercial introduction of these techniques is expected within the next 5-10 years. The individual process steps for methanol production from biomass are well-developed, with the least developed step being gasification and gas cleanup. Integral demonstration of the complete process has not been performed up till now. A comparison of ethanol and methanol production from biomass shows that production prices for both alcohols are about the same. Comparison of the amount of energy produced per acre of land shows the important role of the co-products of ethanol production. When co-products are not considered, ethanol yield is at the lower limit of possible methanol yields, whereas the ethanol yield is at the upper limit of possible methanol yields when co-products of ethanol production are included. Furthermore, introduction of ethanol production from (hemi)cellose results in an increase in the ratio main product/byproducts. Currently the cultivation of micro-algae is practised on a small scale to produce high-prices specialty chemicals. A major advantage of micro-algae production is the high yield per unit of land. For large-scale production of bio-diesel further development of micro-algae cultivation techniques is required. 6 figs., 9 tabs., 14 refs.

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