Fuel production from mill by-products economically viable

24 March 2014

24/03/2014 - The research project "Production of biobutanol as energy source and platform chemical from mill byproducts" ends promising: the project partners Department of Microbiology at the Technical University of Munich, Fritzmeier Umwelttechnik and Bayerischer Müllerbund showed that it is economically profitable to biotechnologically convert mill by-products into biobutanol. Butanol can be added to fuels and has a higher energy density than ethanol. Whether as a solvent for varnishes, paints and cleansing agents or as raw material for other products in the chemical industry, butanol is versatilely applicable. Based on this positive result, the existing process is supposed to be further investigated and implemented in a much larger follow-up project. As coordinator, IBB Netzwerk GmbH has been supporting the project and will coordinate and administratively manage the follow-up project, too.

The feasibility study yielded the result that mill by-products like wheat middlings or wheat bran accumulate in sufficient quantities and are therefore, in principle, eligible for further processing, such as conversion to biobutanol. Moreover, the partners also showed that the bacterial fermentation of mill by-products resulted in an above-average yield of butanol. Thus, small fermentation plants with a capacity of about 20 tons of feedstock per day would already be profitable for middlings processing. For the follow-up project on a technical scale, even higher yields of butanol - and thus better profitability - may be expected.

In future, the conversion of mill by-products into biobutanol could become a novel and environmentally friendly utilization method of a waste product for mill operators. In Bavaria, around 150 mills grind around 1.3 million tons of wheat and rye every year. The resulting mill by-products account for approximately 20 percent of the milled grain quantity. Currently, the by-products are mainly used as fodder, but the supply exceeds demand by far.

About the project "Production of biobutanol as energy source and platform chemical from mill by-products"

Mill by-products are an integral part of the milling process. With a very high density of mills, an exceptionally large amount of by-products accumulate in Bavaria and have to be sold below their value - in comparison to the other German Laender - because of the great supply. The project partners investigated whether mill by-products can be used as raw material for the production of biobutanol. Potentially suitable bacterial strains were selected and the substrate pretreatment and the conditions of production on a laboratory scale were optimized. Model fermentations allowed an estimation of productivity. Besides the investigation of basic feasibility, a second aim of the experiments was also a profitability analysis. The project started on 01/03/2013 and was supported by the Bavarian State Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Forestry.

About the Partners

The Department of Microbiology at the Technical University of Munich (Prof. Dr. W. Liebl, Research Group Dr. W. H. Schwarz) has many years of experience with the work of solvent-building bacteria. Foci in particular are the biology of anaerobic clostridia, the utilization of plant polysaccharides such as starch, cellulose and hemicellulose by these bacteria and the isolation of new bacterial strains that are extracted from natural environment and cultivated. The fermentation of plant materials to useful chemicals is the central point of interest of the research group of Dr. Schwarz and Dr. Zverlov. Here, the production of butanol as a valuable product with multiple applications – as biofuel as well as basic chemical - is part of intensive studies. The results will be utilized in collaborative projects with other academic institutions and with the user industry. More at www.mibio.wzw.tum.de/.

FRITZMEIER Umwelttechnik GmbH & Co. KG is an owner-operated family business and expert in sophisticated sensor systems and biotechnology for use in agriculture, industry and environmental technology. The Department inocre® of Fritzmeier GmbH & Co KG develops, patents and manufactures microbiological products and processes for economical use in the areas odor filter; removal of de-icing agents at airports; biotechnological resource recovery and biogas. More at www.inocre.de.

The Bayerische Müllerbund e.V., National Association of Bavarian Mills, was founded on 1st August 1910 in Landshut-Ellermühle as "Vereinigung bayerischer mittlerer und kleinerer Handels- und Kundschaftsmühlenbesitzer". Within a few months, it became the professional association for millers with the highest membership in Germany. The Bayerische Müllerbund has the legal form of a registered association with charitable character. Its expertise includes the medium-sized milling industry, including baking and coarse feed milling industry, mash manufacturing, as well as special forms of milling business. The task of the Bayerische Müllerbund is to represent the interests of medium-sized milling industry. It represents the economic and social interests of its members. For this purpose, it may create and support institutions to increase the performance of milling industries, especially in technical and economic terms. Learn more at www.muellerbund.de.

Industrielle Biotechnologie Bayern Netzwerk GmbH (IBB Netzwerk GmbH) is a network organization and service provider focusing on the area of Industrial Biotechnology. Our objective in this area is the transformation of valuable scientific knowledge to innovative, marketable products and processes. IBB Netzwerk GmbH carries out the management and coordination of the IBB network with almost 100 members from large industry, SMEs and academia. The company is based in Martinsried near Munich. More at www.ibbnetzwerk-gmbh.com.

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