Process Engineering, Integration, and Optimization
PNNL expertise in bio-based products is based on chemical and biological processing of renewable feedstocks for the production of chemical products. As shown here,
the transformation of low-value byproducts or waste into value-added products can follow a number of pathways. With our broad expertise in catalytic processing and biological processing and background in value-added products and biomass materials, we are able to efficiently develop optimized systems for products from specific biomass resources and situations. Our combined capabilities in chemistry, microbiology, and process engineering allow us to put it all together for our customer. Each "biorefinery" concept can be designed from basic information about feedstock and product markets for each situation. In such a concept an overall high-efficiency process involving one or more conversions and required separations makes the most effective use of each feedstock component for synthesis of a multi-product slate. Such products can range from low-yield, high-priced nutraceuticals or higher yield, lower priced commodity chemicals or fuels. Our capabilities allow us to develop the process concept, assess its economic feasibility, including life-cycle analysis, and then to develop the optimized process considering relevant factors of feedstock cost and composition, processing costs, and competitive product pricing and markets.
Some of the specific applications under development at PNNL include:
- Starch extraction from wheat millfeed with conversion to glucose and subsequent catalytic or biological processing to value-added chemicals
- Controlled hydrolysis of the corn fiber byproduct from corn wet milling to produce sugar streams for further processing, high-value extractants, and ferulic acid derivatives
- Cheese whey permeate processing for lactose-derived products through hydrolysis and catalysis or fermentation
- Animal manure separations for carbohydrate and protein recovery
- Processing by catalysis or fermentation the sugar products derived from the more complex carbohydrate structures such as corn starch, sugar beet pulp, or other lignocellulosics.
Our capabilities for undertaking this work include laboratory facilities for chemical process development including heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis work. The process development further extends to our catalytic processing capabilities at several scales of operation. The interconnection of catalytic processes with biological processes is also a key component of what we do.