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Cellulose-to-aromatics process simplifies BTX production

By Edited by Gerald Ondrey |

A single-step method to convert cellulosic biomass into aromatic compounds offers a simpler and more environmentally friendly route to the petrochemical feedstocks benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX), according to a Massachusetts bioenergy startup company seeking to scale up the technique. Based on a catalytic fast pyrolysis process developed by University of Massachusetts (Amherst, Mass.; www.umass.edu) researcher George Huber, the technique will generate BTX at costs lower than petroleum-derived BTX, says Anellotech (www.anellotech.com), the startup company formed by Huber and CEO David Sudolsky to commercialize the process. “It’s cost-competive with petroluem-derived BTX when oil costs $50–60/bbl,” explains Anellotech CEO David Sudolsky, in part because the products need no further processing. Process benefits also derive from the fact that no water is required, which eliminates a major waste stream in biofuel processes like ethanol production, and no hydrogen is required, which is needed in bio-oil upgrading approaches. Also, lignocellulosic feedstock requires no pre-treatment, Sudolsky adds. The one-step catalytic fast-pyrolysis process involves rapidly heating wood trimmings or other biomass to 600ºC…
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