Biofuels from Lignocellulosic Biomass

Lignocellulosic biomass consists of a variety of materials with distinctive physical and chemical characteristics. It is the non-starch based fibrous part of plant material.

Lignocellulose is a generic term for describing the main constituents in most plants, namely cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin. Lignocellulose is a complex matrix, comprising many different polysaccharides, phenolic polymers and proteins. Cellulose, the major component of cell walls of land plants, is a glucan polysaccharide containing large reservoirs of energy that provide real potential for conversion into biofuels.

Straw_Bales

First-generation biofuels (produced primarily from food crops such as grains, sugar beet and oil seeds) are limited in their ability to achieve targets for oil-product substitution, climate change mitigation, and economic growth. Their sustainable production is under scanner, as is the possibility of creating undue competition for land and water used for food and fibre production.

The cumulative impacts of these concerns have increased the interest in developing biofuels produced from non-food biomass. Feedstocks from lignocellulosic materials include cereal straw, bagasse, forest residues, and purpose-grown energy crops such as vegetative grasses and short rotation forests. These second-generation biofuels could avoid many of the concerns facing first-generation biofuels and potentially offer greater cost reduction potential in the longer term.

The largest potential feedstock for biofuels is lignocellulosic biomass, which includes materials such as agricultural residues (corn stover, crop straws and bagasse), herbaceous crops (alfalfa, switchgrass), short rotation woody crops, forestry residues, waste paper and other wastes (municipal and industrial). Bioethanol production from these feedstocks could be an attractive alternative for disposal of these residues.

Importantlylignocellulosic biomass resources do not interfere with food security. Moreover, bioethanol is very important for both rural and urban areas in terms of energy security reason, environmental concern, employment opportunities, agricultural development, foreign exchange saving, socioeconomic issues etc.

Lignocellulosic biomass consists mainly of lignin and the polysaccharides cellulose and hemicellulose. Compared with the production of ethanol from first-generation feedstocks, the use of lignocellulosic biomass is more complicated because the polysaccharides are more stable and the pentose sugars are not readily fermentable by Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 

In order to convert lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels the polysaccharides must first be hydrolysed, or broken down, into simple sugars using either acid or enzymes. Several biotechnology-based approaches are being used to overcome such problems, including the development of strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that can ferment pentose sugars, the use of alternative yeast species that naturally ferment pentose sugars, and the engineering of enzymes that are able to break down cellulose and hemicellulose into simple sugars.

Lignocellulosic biomass processing pilot plants have been established in the EU, in Denmark, Spain and Sweden. The world’s largest demonstration facility of lignocellulose ethanol (from wheat, barley straw and corn stover), with a capacity of 2.5 Ml, was first established by Iogen Corporation in Ottawa, Canada. Many other processing facilities are now in operation or planning throughout the world.

Economically, lignocellulosic biomass has an advantage over other agriculturally important biofuels feedstock such as corn starch, soybeans, and sugar cane, because it can be produced quickly and at significantly lower cost than food crops.

Lignocellulosic biomass is an important component of the major food crops; it is the non-edible portion of the plant, which is currently underutilized, but could be used for biofuel production. In short, biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass holds the key to supplying society’s basic needs without impacting the nation’s food supply.

About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the CEO of BioEnergy Consult, and an international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biogas technology, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. Salman has participated in numerous national and international conferences all over the world. He is a prolific environmental journalist, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. In addition, he is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability through his blogs and portals. Salman can be reached at salman@bioenergyconsult.com or salman@cleantechloops.com.
Tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Biofuels from Lignocellulosic Biomass

  1. Pingback: Resource Base for Second-Generation Biofuels

  2. Pingback: A Glance at Drop-in Biofuels

  3. Pingback: Bioethanol: Challenges in India

  4. Pingback: A Glance at Lignocellulosic Biomass | Cleantech Solutions

  5. Pingback: Is Green Car Fuel A Reality?

  6. Pingback: Palm Kernel Shells: An Attractive Biomass Fuel for Europe | BioEnergy Consult

  7. Pingback: Why Biofuels Should Be a Key Part in America's Future | BioEnergy Consult

  8. Pingback: The Role of Biofuel in Low-Carbon Transport | BioEnergy Consult

  9. Pingback: A Glance at Drop-in Biofuels | BioEnergy Consult

  10. Pingback: Energy Potential of Palm Kernel Shells | BioEnergy Consult

  11. Pingback: Overview of Biomass Energy Technologies | BioEnergy Consult

  12. Pingback: Matthew Stone, Renovare Fuels: Next Generation Renewables – BioEnergy Consult

  13. Pingback: Biodiesel Program in India – An Analysis – BioEnergy Consult

  14. Pingback: Resource Base for Second-Generation Biofuels | BioEnergy Consult

  15. Pingback: Ethanol Production from Lignocellulosic Biomass

  16. Pingback: Breaking Down the Process of Biofuel Production

  17. Pingback: All You Need to Know About the Uses of Biogas

Share your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.