Engineering News

Cellulosic Ethanol for Less Than $1 Per Gallon?
Thursday, June 12, 2008

Israel-based HCL CleanTech announced that it has developed a proprietary full HCL recovery process, which reportedly makes an old, industrially proven German cellulosic to fermentable sugars and ethanol process economically very attractive. The new technology can also "clean" and improve other HCL-dependant industries. The developers contend that modern chemical technology makes the implementation straightforward and immediate.

The study and development of chemical processes which use acids for the conversion of lignocellulosic material (biomass) to fermentable sugars and ethanol have been going on for about a century. The main reason none of them have been economically viable is that in most of them yields are low due to the formation of useless by-products at a significant percentage of the desired sugars. There is however one particular process that provides near 100% conversion to constituent sugars and that has been fully proven through years of operation on a large industrial scale. The only reason that this excellent process (usually named Bergius after its Nobel Prize winning developer) was used extensively only during World War II period were the high operating costs. The use of fuming acid (HCL gas) in the Bergius process ensures high yields, but the costs of recovery and reconcentration of the HCL has made the process costs too high for economic viability - until now.

HCL-CleanTech proprietary technology changes this lignocellulosics to ethanol process and makes it economically attractive by dramatically reducing the most costly part of the process. Recovering HCl in gaseous form directly from its solutions, by means of the HCL-CleanTech proprietary process provides for drastic costs reduction while preserving the high yields of the industrially proven Bergius cold hydrolysis.

The company said the concept allows for a large variety of feedstock, requires very little water and is virtually self-sufficient energetically. Calculations done by a US Chemical Engineering company in a study for HCL CleanTech indicate that costs per gallon of Ethanol manufactured using this concept will be below US$1.

HCL CleanTech's technology for the recovery of HCl from aqueous solutions and industrial processes based on the core technology can provide complete acid recovery solutions to HCL dependent industries (such as the PVC industry). This would not only significantly reduce operating costs, but would make those industries far more environmentally friendly, the company noted.

HCL CleanTech is about to start its first round of institutional investment.

Source: HCL CleanTech Ltd.

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