15 September 2005

Breakthrough: Wageningen researchers produce bioethanol from straw

A team of researchers from A&F has succeeded in producing ethanol from 25 kilograms of straw. For the first time in the Netherlands, ethanol is produced on this scale from a woody biomass. Bioethanol is a so-called second-generation bio fuel, which should, in approcimately five years, provide a sustainable replacement for petrol.

Bioethanol may play an important part in pushing back the CO2 emissions by traffic. In addittion, the use of biotethanol will reduce our dependence on imported oil, while providing a new, low-cost alternative for ethanol for the chemical industry. This development may be of great importance to producers of by-products in the agricultural food sector, because, this way, those by-products may be able to yield a much higher added value.

By obtaining ethanol from cheap sources, such as straw, residual wood products, roadside shrubs, natural grass, and other residual streams, the production costs of ethanol may substantially be reduced. It is expected that the Dutch government will be making an announcement this year to mix in ethanol with petrol. This is an important precondition for the introduction of the biomass-to-ethanol technology.

The production process that was used comprises a physical/chemical pretreatment of straw, followed by an enzymatic hydrolysis into sugars, which are then fermented into ethanol. The experiment provides proof that this process will be effective and offers perspectives for an industrial scaling-up exercise. General scaling-up and efficiency-improving methods for the process are presently being researched.

The research is financed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries. In the research, A&F collaborates with ECN, TNO, Royal Nedalco, Shell, Purac, as well as two chair groups of Wageningen University.

More Information
Rob Bakker
Tel.: ++31-317-47 75-69
E-Mail: robert.bakker@wur.nl

Source: "A&F Innovator" - Newsletter of Agrotechnology & Food Innovations Vol. 7, summer issue 2005.

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