Novel lignocellulosic ethanol process operates in India

By Susanne Retka Schill | January 03, 2009
Perth, Australia-based Mission NewEnergy Ltd. has joined the list of cellulosic ethanol developers. The company announced in November that its pilot facility, built through a joint venture with a scientific team in India, has successfully produced cellulosic ethanol from agricultural wastes using a novel conversion process. Located in northern India, the pilot plant has a batch process capacity of 10,000 gallons per year.

Mission NewEnergy is focusing on lignocellulosic agricultural waste containing complex C5 and C6 sugars, lignin, and high levels of silica. The company's technology uses a unique sequence of certain conventional and patent-pending chemical and mechanical processes, said James Garton, head of corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions at Mission NewEnergy. The company said it achieves 100 percent separation of both cellulose and hemicellulose from lignin, which permits easier and complete hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose into C5 and C6 sugars. The process achieves the separation at low heat and low pressure without enzymes or high-concentration acids, he explained. In addition, the chemicals used in the process can be recovered to remove any hazardous material from waste material, and the extraction of silica from the lignin improves the efficiency of lignin for use as a feedstock in energy production.

"While other technologies have been able to produce bio-ethanol from biomass, they have suffered from a low conversion rate of raw material to bio-ethanol or a high conversion cost," said Mission NewEnergy Managing Director Nathan Mahalingam. "These high production costs make other projects not commercially viable. None of these challenges exist within Mission's technology, and we believe this positions Mission to become one of the few successful next-generation ethanol producers."