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Demonstration of a straw-to-bioethanol process

By Tetsuo Satoh |

This month, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI; Tokyo; www.mhi.co.jp) is starting up a demonstration plant for producing bioethanol from the straw of rice and wheat. Located at the Futami Farm of MHI Kobe Shipbuilding Plant, the facility — developed in collaboration with Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Co. (Kobe; www.hakutsuru.co.jp) and Kansai Chemical Engineering Co. (Amagasaki, both Japan; www.kce.co.jp) — will produce 200 L of ethanol from each ton of straw. MHI has developed two pretreatment steps for the production of bioethanol. First, milled straw is pyrolyzed in a reactor using pressurized hot water (less than 300°C). Pyrolysis products are then separated and saccharified into pentose and hexose, which can then be fermented into ethanol. MHI technologies used in other sectors have been adapted for this application, such as: an injection molding machine, for injecting soft straw into the closed reactor; welding technology and construction materials from nuclear power equipment, for the high temperature and high pressure reactor; and the aqueous pyrolysis process, which is used for the degradation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs; CE, November 1998, p. 23). By March 2010, MHI aims to produce ethanol with a production…
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