Techno-economic analysis for incorporating a liquid–liquid extraction system to remove acetic acid into a proposed commercial scale biorefinery

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Abstract

Mitigating the effect of fermentation inhibitors in bioethanol plants can have a great positive impact on the economy of this industry. Liquid–liquid extraction (LLE) using ethyl acetate is able to remove fermentation inhibitors—chiefly, acetic acid—from an aqueous solution used to produce bioethanol. The fermentation broth resulting from LLE has higher performance for ethanol yield and its production rate. Previous techno-economic analyses focused on second-generation biofuel production did not address the impact of removing the fermentation inhibitors on the economic performance of the biorefinery. A comprehensive analysis of applying a separation system to mitigate the fermentation inhibition effect and to provide an analysis on the economic impact of removal of acetic acid from corn stover hydrolysate on the overall revenue of the biorefinery is necessary. This study examines the pros and cons associated with implementing LLE column along with the solvent recovery system into a commercial scale bioethanol plant. Using details from the NREL-developed model of corn stover biorefinery, the capital costs associated with the equipment and the operating cost for the use of solvent were estimated and the results were compared with the profit gain due to higher ethanol production. Results indicate that the additional capital will add 1% to the total capital and manufacturing cost will increase by 5.9%. The benefit arises from the higher ethanol production rate and yield as a consequence of inhibitor extraction and results in a $0.35 per gallon reduction in the minimum ethanol selling price (MESP). © 2016 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 32:971–977, 2016

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