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Keywords:

  • thermochemical biorefinery;
  • methanol;
  • DME;
  • ethanol;
  • butanol;
  • acetic anhydride

Abstract

This critical review focuses on potential routes for the multi-production of chemicals and fuels in the framework of thermochemical biorefineries. The up-to-date research and development in this field has been limited to BTL/G (biomass-to-liquids/gases) studies, where biomass-derived -synthesis gas (syngas) is converted into a single product with/without the co-production of -electricity and heat. Simultaneously, the interest on biorefineries is growing but mostly refers to the biochemical processing of biomass. However, thermochemical biorefineries (multi-product plants using thermochemical processing of biomass) are still the subject of few studies. This scarcity of studies could be attributed to the limitations of current designs of BTL/G for multi-production and the limited number of considered routes for syngas conversion. The use of a platform chemical (an intermediate) brings new opportunities to the design of process concepts, since unlike BTL/G processes they are not restricted to the conversion of syngas in a single-reaction system. Most of the routes presented here are based on old-fashioned and new routes for the processing of coal- and natural-gas-derived -syngas, but they have been re-thought for the use of biomass and the multi-production plants (−thermochemical -biorefinery). The considered platform chemicals are methanol, DME, and ethanol, which are the -common products from syngas in BTL/G studies. Important keys are given for the integration of reviewed routes into the design of thermochemical biorefineries, in particular for the selection of the mix of co-products, as well as for the sustainability (co-feeding, CO2 capture, and negative -emissions). © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd