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Title: Estimating Hydrogen Production Potential in Biorefineries Using Microbial Electrolysis Cell Technology

Abstract

Microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) are devices that use a hybrid biocatalysis-electrolysis process for production of hydrogen from organic matter. Future biofuel and bioproducts industries are expected to generate significant volumes of waste streams containing easily degradable organic matter. The emerging MEC technology has potential to derive added- value from these waste streams via production of hydrogen. Biorefinery process streams, particularly the stillage or distillation bottoms contain underutilized sugars as well as fermentation and pretreatment byproducts. In a lignocellulosic biorefinery designed for producing 70 million gallons of ethanol per year, up to 7200 m3/hr of hydrogen can be generated. The hydrogen can either be used as an energy source or a chemical reagent for upgrading and other reactions. The energy content of the hydrogen generated is sufficient to meet 57% of the distillation energy needs. We also report on the potential for hydrogen production in existing corn mills and sugar-based biorefineries. Removal of the organics from stillage has potential to facilitate water recycle. Pretreatment and fermentation byproducts generated in lignocellulosic biorefinery processes can accumulate to highly inhibitory levels in the process streams, if water is recycled. The byproducts of concern including sugar- and lignin- degradation products such as furans and phenolicsmore » can also be converted to hydrogen in MECs. We evaluate hydrogen production from various inhibitory byproducts generated during pretreatment of various types of biomass. Finally, the research needs for development of the MEC technology and aspects particularly relevant to the biorefineries are discussed.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1]
  1. ORNL
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program
OSTI Identifier:
1023287
DOE Contract Number:
DE-AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: International Journal of Hydrogen Energy; Journal Volume: 36; Journal Issue: 22
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
09 BIOMASS FUELS; 08 HYDROGEN; BIOFUELS; BIOMASS; DISTILLATION; ELECTROLYSIS; ENERGY SOURCES; ETHANOL; FERMENTATION; FURANS; HYDROGEN; HYDROGEN PRODUCTION; LIGNIN; ORGANIC MATTER; PRODUCTION; REMOVAL; SACCHARIDES; SACCHAROSE; STILLAGE; WASTES; WATER; biofuel cell; hydrogen; lignocellulosic; fermentation inhibitors; biorefinery; 22 water treatment; recycle; value added products; butanol

Citation Formats

Borole, Abhijeet P, and Mielenz, Jonathan R. Estimating Hydrogen Production Potential in Biorefineries Using Microbial Electrolysis Cell Technology. United States: N. p., 2011. Web. doi:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2011.03.152.
Borole, Abhijeet P, & Mielenz, Jonathan R. Estimating Hydrogen Production Potential in Biorefineries Using Microbial Electrolysis Cell Technology. United States. doi:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2011.03.152.
Borole, Abhijeet P, and Mielenz, Jonathan R. 2011. "Estimating Hydrogen Production Potential in Biorefineries Using Microbial Electrolysis Cell Technology". United States. doi:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2011.03.152.
@article{osti_1023287,
title = {Estimating Hydrogen Production Potential in Biorefineries Using Microbial Electrolysis Cell Technology},
author = {Borole, Abhijeet P and Mielenz, Jonathan R},
abstractNote = {Microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) are devices that use a hybrid biocatalysis-electrolysis process for production of hydrogen from organic matter. Future biofuel and bioproducts industries are expected to generate significant volumes of waste streams containing easily degradable organic matter. The emerging MEC technology has potential to derive added- value from these waste streams via production of hydrogen. Biorefinery process streams, particularly the stillage or distillation bottoms contain underutilized sugars as well as fermentation and pretreatment byproducts. In a lignocellulosic biorefinery designed for producing 70 million gallons of ethanol per year, up to 7200 m3/hr of hydrogen can be generated. The hydrogen can either be used as an energy source or a chemical reagent for upgrading and other reactions. The energy content of the hydrogen generated is sufficient to meet 57% of the distillation energy needs. We also report on the potential for hydrogen production in existing corn mills and sugar-based biorefineries. Removal of the organics from stillage has potential to facilitate water recycle. Pretreatment and fermentation byproducts generated in lignocellulosic biorefinery processes can accumulate to highly inhibitory levels in the process streams, if water is recycled. The byproducts of concern including sugar- and lignin- degradation products such as furans and phenolics can also be converted to hydrogen in MECs. We evaluate hydrogen production from various inhibitory byproducts generated during pretreatment of various types of biomass. Finally, the research needs for development of the MEC technology and aspects particularly relevant to the biorefineries are discussed.},
doi = {10.1016/j.ijhydene.2011.03.152},
journal = {International Journal of Hydrogen Energy},
number = 22,
volume = 36,
place = {United States},
year = 2011,
month = 1
}
  • In this study, furanic and phenolic compounds are problematic byproducts resulting from the decomposition of lignocellulosic biomass during biofuel production. This study assessed the capacity of a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) to produce hydrogen gas (H 2) using a mixture of two furanic (furfural, FF; 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, HMF) and three phenolic (syringic acid, SA; vanillic acid, VA; and 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, HBA) compounds as the sole carbon and energy source in the bioanode. The rate and extent of biotransformation of the five compounds, efficiency of H 2 production, as well as the anode microbial community structure were investigated. The five compoundsmore » were completely transformed within 7-day batch runs and their biotransformation rate increased with increasing initial concentration. At an initial concentration of 1,200 mg/L (8.7 mM) of the mixture of the five compounds, their biotransformation rate ranged from 0.85 to 2.34 mM/d. The anode coulombic efficiency was 44-69%, which is comparable to wastewater-fed MECs. The H 2 yield varied from 0.26 to 0.42 g H 2-COD/g COD removed in the anode, and the bioanode volume-normalized H 2 production rate was 0.07-0.1 L/L-d. The major identified fermentation products that did not transform further were catechol and phenol. Acetate was the direct substrate for exoelectrogenesis. Current and H 2 production were inhibited at an initial substrate concentration of 1,200 mg/L, resulting in acetate accumulation at a much higher level than that measured in other batch runs conducted with a lower initial concentration of the five compounds. The anode microbial community consisted of exoelectrogens, putative degraders of the five compounds, and syntrophic partners of exoelectrogens. The H 2 production route demonstrated in this study has proven to be an alternative to the currently used process of reforming natural gas to supply H 2 needed to upgrade bio-oils to stable hydrocarbon fuels.« less
  • A new approach to hydrogen production using a hybrid pyrolysis-microbial electrolysis process is described. The aqueous stream generated during pyrolysis of switchgrass was used as a substrate for hydrogen production in a microbial electrolysis cell, achieving a maximum hydrogen production rate of 4.3 L H2/L-day at a loading of 10 g COD/L-anode-day. Hydrogen yields ranged from 50 3.2% to76 0.5% while anode coulombic efficiency ranged from 54 6.5% to 96 0.21%, respectively. Significant conversion of furfural, organic acids and phenolic molecules was observed under both batch and continuous conditions. The electrical and overall energy efficiency ranged from 149-175% and 48-63%,more » respectively. The results demonstrate the potential of the pyrolysis-microbial electrolysis process as a sustainable and efficient route for production of renewable hydrogen with significant implications for hydrocarbon production from biomass.« less
  • A combined anaerobic digestion (AD) and microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) system, named here as ADMEC, was investigated in this paper to evaluate the energy recovery from pretreated wastewater solids. Alkaline and thermal hydrolysis pretreatment methods increased the solubility of organic compounds present in the raw solids by 25% and 20%, respectively. The soluble phase from pretreatment was separated and used for microbial electrolysis, whereas the insoluble fraction was fed into semi-continuous digesters. The digester effluent was later utilized as a second MEC substrate. The pretreatment had variable effects on AD and MEC performance. The methane content in AD biogas wasmore » higher in pretreated groups, 78.29 ± 2.89% and 73.2 ± 1.79%, for alkaline and thermal, than the control, 50.26 ± 0.53%, but the overall biogas production rates were lower than the control, 20 and 30 mL CH 4 gCOD -1 d -1 for alkaline and thermal compared to 80 mL CH 4 gCOD -1 d -1. The effluent streams from thermally pretreated digesters were the best substrate for microbial electrolysis, in terms of hydrogen production and efficiency. The MECs produced 1.7 ± 0.2 L-H 2 per L per day, 0.3 ± 0.1 L-H 2 per L per day, and 0.29 ± 0.1 L-H 2 per L per day, for thermal, alkaline, and control reactors. The productivity was lower compared to acetate and propionate controls, which yielded 5.79 ± 0.03 L-H 2 per L per day and 3.49 ± 0.10 L-H 2 per L per day, respectively. The pretreatment solubilized fractions were not ideal substrates for microbial electrolysis. Finally, a chemical oxygen demand (COD) mass balance showed that pretreatment shifts the electron flux away from methane and biomass sinks towards hydrogen production.« less
  • We investigated the effect of flow rate and recycle on the conversion of a biomass-derived pyrolysis aqueous phase in amicrobial electrolysis cell (MEC) to demonstrate production of renewable hydrogen in biorefinery. A continuous MEC operation was investigated under one-pass and recycle conditions usingthe complex, biomass-derived, fermentable, mixed substrate feed at a constant concentration of 0.026 g/L,while testing flow rates ranging from 0.19 to 3.6 mL/min. This corresponds to an organic loading rate (OLR) of 0.54₋10 g/L-day. Mass transfer issues observed at low flow rates were alleviated using high flow rates.Increasing the flow rate to 3.6 mL/min (3.7 min HRT) duringmore » one-pass operation increased the hydrogen productivity 3-fold, but anode conversion efficiency (ACE) decreased from 57.9% to 9.9%. Recycle of the anode liquid helped to alleviate kinetic limitations and the ACE increased by 1.8-fold and the hydrogen productivity by 1.2-fold compared to the one-pass condition at the flow rate of 3.6 mL/min (10 g/L-d OLR). High COD removal was also achieved under recycle conditions, reaching 74.2 1.1%, with hydrogen production rate of 2.92 ± 0.51 L/L-day. This study demonstrates the advantages of combining faster flow rates with a recycle process to improve rate of hydrogen production from a switchgrass-derived stream in the biorefinery.« less