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Keywords:

  • biomass;
  • catalysis;
  • furfural;
  • hydrogenation;
  • lignocellulose

Abstract

Furfural offers a promising, rich platform for lignocellulosic biofuels. These include methylfuran and methyltetrahydrofuran, valerate esters, ethylfurfuryl and ethyltetrahydrofurfuryl ethers as well as various C10–C15 coupling products. The various production routes are critically reviewed, and the needs for improvements are identified. Their relative industrial potential is analysed by defining an investment index and CO2 emissions as well as determining the fuel properties for the resulting products. Finally, the most promising candidate, 2-methylfuran, was subjected to a road trial of 90 000 km in a gasoline blend. Importantly, the potential of the furfural platform relies heavily on the cost-competitive production of furfural from lignocellulosic feedstock. Conventional standalone and emerging coproduct processes—for example, as a coproduct of cellulosic ethanol, levulinic acid or hydroxymethyl furfural—are expensive and energetically demanding. Challenges and areas that need improvement are highlighted. In addition to providing a critical review of the literature, this paper also presents new results and analysis in this area.