A biorefinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and chemicals from biomass. The biorefinery concept is analogous to today's petroleum refineries, which produce multiple fuels and products from petroleum. Industrial biorefineries have been identified as the most promising route to the creation of a new domestic biobased industry (NREL).
European Union is favoring the use of renovable energies for reducing the dependence on petroleum-derived fuels. Ethanol production from raw materials of agricultural origin is an alternative to the use of fossil fuels. However, its main disadvantage is the production cost, higher than that of other fuels. The first works in this research line started in 2004 and were related to a project carried out in collaboration with Bioetanol Galicia SA. The objective of this first project was to determine the optimal values of the main operational parameters of the Simultaneous Saccharification and Fermentation (SSF) process for producing bioethanol from cereals. Besides, to increment the protein content of Distillers's Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) -an animal feed obtained as by-product- the use of secondary fermentations with ligninolytic fungi was studied.
From then on, three other projects in collaboration with ABENGOA Bioenergy have been carried out. In these projects cereals were replaced by low-cost ligninolytic biomass as raw material. The objective of this research is to partially or totally replace chemico-physical pre-treatment steps by less contaminant biological processes based on the use of ligninolytic fungi. Besides, the use of this biomass would avoid the competition between food and energetic crops.
We are also implementing an extractive fermentation system for producing butanol (ABE fermentation). In order to make butanol production economically viable at large scale, it is necessary to maximize the yield of alcohol in the bioreactor, and thus to overcome microorganism’s inhibition occurring at product threshold concentration. This topic is being carried out as part of a collaborative project with IFP-Energies Nouvelles.
Finally, we are participating in a ERA-IB-2 project that integrates the use of ligninolytic enzymes and novel cellulases in the pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass with the aim of producing sugars that could be used in second-generation biorefineries.
· Enzymes for 2G Sugars (2GEnzymes)
Spanish Government (PCIN-2015-031). (01.11.2015-31.10.2018)