A New Approach to Biomass

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					A New Approach to Biomass
     While biomass holds potential for a ready supply of renewable energy, the
primary success factor for this resource—the ability to profitably produce products
from biomass—has stymied government and industry alike.
      The U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
operated by Battelle, is overcoming this barrier by taking a new approach to using
biomass. Our research is focused on producing high-value bioproducts, such as
chemicals for plastics, fibers and solvents, in addition to fuels and power. Since
these bioproducts often can be made less expensively than similar products made
from petroleum, they can provide the economic driving force necessary to make a
biorefinery-based industry a reality. In addition, a biomass-based feedstock offers
the opportunity to make entirely new products with processes that are more
energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
      Recent advances by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and its partners
make development of these sophisticated biorefineries technically and economically
feasible. These advances offer an unprecedented opportunity to create a new and
growing market for agriculture while meeting national needs, including reducing
U.S. dependence on foreign oil and gas, providing economic opportunities for
agriculture and rural-based economies and reducing environmental impact.
      At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, our 30 years of experience in
biomass science and technology development offer opportunities for grower
associations, commodity processors, chemical companies
and others interested in the environmental
and economic benefits of renewable
biomass resources.




                                       The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory delivers financially attractive
                                       systems that use biomass to produce industrial and consumer products.
Leading Edge Capabilities
To create new uses for agricultural         Eukaryotic organisms
products and other biomass resources,
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory       in fermentation and
offers integrated capabilities in           enzyme discovery
chemistry, advanced process science
and engineering, applied microbiology       The Laboratory has a group dedicated
and molecular biology.                      to fully exploiting the capabilities of
                                            filamentous fungi, the group of
                                            microorganisms largely responsible for
Novel catalyst research                     recycling lignocellulose biomass in
The Laboratory is a leading research        nature and the source of beta lactam            With the help of batch and continuous flow
institute in the fundamental                antibiotics, the miracle drugs of the           chemical reactor systems, researchers at the
understanding and development of            mid-twentieth century. The Laboratory           Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have
novel, highly active and highly selective   is building a fungi culture collection for      developed novel, highly active and selective
catalysts for biomass conversion. Our       discovery, characterization and product         catalysts for biomass conversion.
researchers have extensive experience in    screening; establishing a fungal fermen–
formulating, synthesizing and testing       tation laboratory; and developing novel         Advanced process
                                            molecular biology tools for genetic
catalysts for chemical production
                                            manipulation of the fungi as part of            science and engineering
applications, including
                                            developing optimal production systems.
                                                                                            The Laboratory’s core capabilities in
• Catalytic hydrogenation of organic        These capabilities allow us to rapidly
                                                                                            molecular science, advanced chemical
  acids and sugars to monomers, esters      develop novel fermentation systems for
                                                                                            analysis and process science and
  and solvents                              producing
                                                                                            engineering provide the basis for
• Catalytic oxidation of oils and           a wide variety of industrially
                                                                                            developing and deploying novel
  sugars to produce monomers, esters        relevant compounds.
                                                                                            processing technologies. These
  and epoxides
                                                                                            capabilities enable us to develop original
• Acid catalysis for sugar conversion,
                                                                                            approaches to feedstock pretreatment,
  esterification, decarboxylation
                                                                                            conversion and product purification.
  and deamination.
                                                                                            For example, our capability in reaction
In addition, we have extensive                                                              kinetics has allowed us to carefully
experience in conversion of biomass                                                         separate biomass fractions to ensure
for energy uses, such as                                                                    optimal value recovery. We also have
                                                                                            developed novel reactor and separation
• Thermochemical gasification                                                               systems, such as advanced micro-
  of biomass for medium-Btu                                                                 thermal and chemical systems, to
  gas production                                                                            provide the process intensification
• Upgrading of bio-oils to                                                                  necessary to significantly reduce
  transportation fuels                                                                      capital and energy requirements for
• Conversion of organic acids to             Researchers at the Pacific Northwest
                                                                                            biomass processing.
  fuel additives.                            National Laboratory are developing new
                                             tools for manipulating the genetic material    Our capabilities provide the building
                                             of filamentous fungi, which could serve as a   blocks to create and optimize a fully
                                             source of effective fermentation organisms.    integrated bio-based products manu–
                                                                                            facturing system that economically
                                                                                            converts biomass into energy and
                                                                                            industrial products.
Unique Facilities
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
facilities provide sophisticated analytical
equipment and chemical and
biochemical reactor systems. This
suite of facilities offers an ideal
environment for advanced bio-based
products research.
State-of-the-art nuclear magnetic
resonance and electron paramagnetic
resonance instrumentation located in
the William R. Wiley Environmental
Molecular Sciences Laboratory help
users understand the molecular
structure and fundamental processes
needed to advance biomass science.
Our chemical engineering and process
development laboratories offer highly
advanced chemical analytical equipment
and chemical and biochemical reactor
systems, such as batch and continuous
flow catalytic reactors, in which to          At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Process Development Laboratory, which
perform a diverse range of hydro–             accommodates demonstration-scale plants and equipment, researchers conduct engineering
genation and oxidation reaction steps.        assessments of biomass processing methods with market potential.
Other facilities provide the capability to
operate batch fermentation vessels,
collect and screen microbes, conduct
genetic sequencing and carry out
metabolic engineering experiments
using microbes and plants.
The Laboratory also is working with a
variety of organizations to establish a
joint bioproducts research and
education facility. This facility will
contain the capabilities necessary to
rapidly translate scientific discoveries
into commercial technologies and
provide a comprehensive educational
experience aligned with industry needs.




                                              An 800 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer in the William R. Wiley
                                              Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory is one of more than 15 NMRs available to
                                              help determine the chemistry of feedstocks or products.
Breakthrough Science and Technology
The Pacific Northwest National                Production and                                Thermochemical
Laboratory offers a strong track record
of fundamental scientific advances and        conversion of                                 conversion processes
new technology developments.                  fermentation products                         The Pacific Northwest National
                                                                                            Laboratory has more than 25 years
                                              The Laboratory has developed several
Fractionation and                             unique catalyst processes to convert
                                                                                            experience in developing thermo-
                                                                                            chemical conversion processes to
recovery of high-value                        fermentation products, such as organic
                                                                                            produce fuels and products from
                                              acids and amino acids, into valuable
products                                      chemicals. Using this catalytic
                                                                                            biomass. Initial work began in 1975 in
                                                                                            biomass liquefaction. Since then, our
Our scientists are finding ways to            conversion approach, for example,
                                                                                            work has included production of
extract additional, high-value products       we produced 1,4-butanediol, which
                                                                                            transportation fuels from bio-oils and
from low-value food processing                is a monomer used for products like
                                                                                            catalytic and non-catalytic steam
by-products. We have developed                plastic car bumpers, from biologically
                                                                                            gasification of biomass.
processes to selectively recover various      derived succinic acid. This technology
carbohydrates and other valuable              won a prestigious R&D 100 Award.              This research led to the development
products from these low-value streams.                                                      of an entirely new catalytic gasification
                                              Our researchers also are developing
The recovered carbohydrates are                                                             concept using high-pressure liquid water
                                              unique fermentation processes using
converted to sugars and further                                                             for low-temperature gasification. This
                                              filamentous fungi, a group of micro-
processed either catalytically or through                                                   concept, which converts wet organic
                                              organisms essential to converting and
fermentation to a suite of products                                                         residues to medium-Btu fuel gas
                                              recycling biomass in nature. These
such as monomers for plastics and                                                           (methane and carbon dioxide) was an
                                              organisms produce a wide variety of
fibers. Other high value products,                                                          R&D 100 award winner and is currently
                                              industrially important products such as
like valuable oils or proteins, are                                                         being evaluated to convert animal
                                              organic acids that can replace
extracted and recovered for uses                                                            wastes to fuel gas.
                                              petroleum-derived feedstocks in the
such as nutraceuticals.                       synthesis of polymers,
                                              esters, solvents and
Catalytic conversion of                       other useful chemicals,
                                              as well as new enzymes
biomass-derived sugars                        that can be applied to
to chemicals                                  specific chemical
                                              reactions. Combined
The Pacific Northwest National                fermentation and
Laboratory has developed several highly       catalytic processes can
selective and robust catalyst processes       provide unique and
to convert sugars into valuable               lower cost routes
commodity and specialty chemicals.            to several important
Our processes create chemicals from           chemicals.
sugars at far lower cost than the same
                                                                         Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers are developing
chemicals made from petroleum. For
                                                                         the capabilities of filamentous fungi to serve as a potential source
example, we have produced polyols,
                                                                         of organic acids or new enzymes.
such as ethylene glycol and propylene
glycol, with catalysts that can provide
high selectivity for a given glycol,
resulting in a more valuable product
stream. We also have developed an
efficient solid acid catalysis technique to
turn sorbitol into isosorbide, which can
be used to add strength and rigidity
to polymers.
Collaborative Success
Through collaborative projects with                                                       About the
universities, research institutions,
trade organizations and commercial                                                        Pacific Northwest
companies, the Pacific Northwest                                                          National Laboratory
National Laboratory has advanced
fundamental understanding as well
                                                                                          The U.S. Department of Energy’s
as the economics and efficiency of
                                                                                          Pacific Northwest National
biomass-to-chemicals processes.
                                                                                          Laboratory, operated by Battelle,
We used a variety of mechanisms to
                                                                                          delivers breakthrough science and
achieve results, including cooperative
                                                                                          technology to meet the DOE’s
research and development agreements,
                                                                                          science, environmental quality,
memorandums of agreement, licenses
                                                                                          energy and national security
of patented technologies and work for
                                                                                          missions.
other government agencies. Through
a unique contractual arrangement                                                          Established in 1965, a quick
between DOE and Battelle, the                                                             snapshot of the Laboratory today
Laboratory’s operating contractor, our   New processing options that simultaneously       shows 3,600 staff, $535 million in
staff members also have performed        produce high value chemicals, fuels and energy   business volume, 1,523 patent
work for commercial firms.               may finally release the power of biomass         awards since 1965 and 48,320.9
                                         resources like this pulp mill sludge.            square meters of active
                                                                                          lab space.


                                                                                          For more information about
                                                                                          bio-based products or to
                                                                                          discuss development
                                                                                          opportunities, contact
                   Award-Winning Technology                                               Dennis Stiles
                                                                                          509-372-4358
            Among our achievements are a Presidential Green                               dennis.stiles@pnl.gov
         Chemistry Challenge Award in 1999 for groundbreaking                             Theresa Bergsman
          work in developing a patented catalysis process that adds                       509-372-6079
          value to paper mill sludge; a 1997 R&D 100 Award                                theresa.bergsman@pnl.gov
            for a process that converts corn into a cost-efficient,                       Pacific Northwest National
         environmentally friendly source of chemicals; and a 1990                         Laboratory
          Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Technology                              PO Box 999
                                                                                          Richland, WA 99352
           Transfer for a process that combines fermentation with                         inquiry@pnl.gov
                  catalytic processes to produce lactic acid.                             1-888-375-PNNL (7669)
                                                                                          www.pnl.gov/biobased/




                                                                                                                  PNNL-SA-36543