New & Notable
New & Notable
25 Mar 2021
BIO-REFINERIES: A FUTURISTIC SOLUTION
Waste generated from agriculture and agro-based industrial practices were once considered as an environmental threat. However, over time, they have gained importance because of their physiochemical and biological characteristics and use as renewable bio-based sources of chemicals and fuels. The agro-residues are majorly composed of lignin, cellulose, and hemicelluloses and are hence referred to as lignocellulosic biomass. It is a renewable raw-material for the production of chemicals, bio-hydrogen, and biofuels.
Bio-refining, an approach to valorize various lignocellulosic materials by converting them into various bio-products, can solve the problem of eco-pollution and reduce our reliance on limited fossil resources. Moreover, bio-refining can become the source of chemicals for “Green Chemistry.” In a bio-refinery, raw materials such as biomass waste are transformed into energy and chemicals in an economical and eco-friendly manner.
Bio-refineries are categorized into two platforms depending on the type of the conversion process, i.e.(1) Syngas platform (SGP): Also known as the thermochemical platform, it involves high-temperature gasification or pyrolysis and catalytic synthesis to produce chemicals and fuels.(2) Sugar platform (SP): Also known as the biochemical platform, it involves hydrolysis of the biomass into sugars followed by fermentation to produce chemicals and fuels.
THE BIG OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIA
India, being agriculturally enriched, has ample amounts of agro-residues like wheat straw, banana stem, sugarcane bagasse, sunflower stalk, sweet sorghum, and weeds like Saccharum spontaneum, Typha latifolia, etc. For farmers, these agro-residues (lignocellulosic biomass) are nothing but a heap of ash, as they usually burn it in open fields, causing air pollution. These agro-residues can be used completely and judiciously to meet the current energy demand and overcome dependence on fossil fuels. In response to the Government’s initiatives like Make in India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology-supported DBTICT-Centre for energy biosciences at ICT Mumbai has successfully demonstrated the production of ethanol (alcohol) from lignocellulosic biomass for the first time. India’s first 2nd-generation Cellulosic Ethanol demonstration plant with a capacity of 10t/day was set up and commissioned on 22nd of April 2016 at India Glycols Ltd., Kashipur, Uttarakhand. In future, advances in technology and processes will lead to the next generation of bio-refinery systems with low-cost conversion of lignocelluloses into biofuels and biochemicals, which will pave the way for a sustainable future.