Pretreatment & Hydrolysis

Pretreatment is a growing area of interest with the objective to valorize biomass streams.

At BPF we make use of steam explosion as pretreatment technology. We make use of extensive enzymatic hydrolysis knowledge to analyse the results and determine the efficiency of pretreatment.

BPF has steam explosion capability at batch (3-4 kg) and continuous pilot scale (1 ton biomass/day). Our hydrolysis equipment is sized with this capacity from lab up to pilot scale to enable the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulosic fractions.

In summary, this module allows for the breakdown of different types of biomass, including agricultural, forest or waste residue feedstock, into fermentable sugars and other valuable products.

Best practices

Steam explosion pretreatment

When developing the steam explosion proces for a biomass, following process steps are important to consider: size reduction of biomass, chemical impregnation and the actual steam explosion.

At BPF we are using steam explosion, because it's efficient way to open up the biomass. Moreover, it's also a technical and economical  proven process at commercial scale. In a typical steam explosion pre-treatment run the process flow starts with size reduction of the biomass, followed by chemical impregnation and the actual steam explosion. The pretreated feedstock is now more susceptible for enzymatic hydrolysis, which liberates the sugars. Leftover lignin and other solids are then separated and the sugar solution is concentrated. 

Scaled-down pilot experiments are needed for the following main reasons:

  • Steam explosion cannot really be mimicked on lab scale, testing of steam explosion at labscale is technically not possible
  • Flowability of the biomass of different sizes, biomass sludge handling and filterability is strongly dependent on biomass source and pretreatment conditions
  • No real theoretical validation exists to predict this behaviour
  • Limited information is published in the public domain because of IP reasons

So getting pretreatment to work on scale is challenging. Commercial scale technology is feasible but a lot of details in scaling up need to be handled well. Important to realize that a pretreatment process needs to be optimized for each feedstock, each enzyme technology and application.

That’s where piloting comes in. It helps to get process and product details right , to mitigate risk mitigation, experience from the learning curve at pilot scale and finally as well a proof of concept to convince investors / biorefinery operators to invest.

We can kickstart your biomass evaluation based on our lab, pilot and industrial scale knowledge on biomass pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis.