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Energy recovery from cellulose wastes

Higgins, Francis John (1978) Energy recovery from cellulose wastes. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Cellulose wastes in the form of cereal residues, sawdust, and paper wastes are available in considerable volume in this state. If all of these wastes were converted into ethanol via hydrolysis and fermentation, it would be theoretically possible to produce a volume of liquid fuel equivalent to about half of the present annual consumption of gasoline in Western Australia.

Crystalline cellulose does not hydrolyze readily, and much of the work undertaken in this study was centred on examining the hydrolysis process. Enzymatic hydrolysis has been receiving a good deal of attention in recent research, but on the grounds of cost alone it appeared that this method of hydrolysis could not be applied to a fuel from cellulose waste process. A number of acid hydrolysis processes have been documented in the literature, based on the use of dilute sulphuric acid at a high temperature; concentrated sulphuric acid; concentrated hydrochloric acid; and hydrogen chloride gas. Of these the HC1 gas process was chosen for use in this study.

A number of laboratory experiments were conducted to examine the reaction kinetics for the HC1 gas phase hydrolysis of -cellulose and newspaper, at temperatures ranging from ambient temperature to 50C. The results were compared with those from a similar series of experiments based on the use of concentrated hydrochloric acid. The HC1 gas phase process used in the experiments was based on a modification of the Noguchi-Chisso process, which was developed in Japan for the production of dextrose from wood wastes.

The results from the experiments indicated that rapid rates of hydrolysis were achieved when samples which had absorbed sufficient HC1 to give an equivalent acid concentration of 40% to 43% (w/w), were heated for five minutes to 50C. The gas adsorption stage took up to 15 minutes, with the time taken for this being influenced by the rate at which the heat adsorption could be removed from the reactor.

Consideration has been given to applying the HC1 gas phase hydrolysis process to a larger scale of operation, based on the use of cellulose wastes. The hydrolysis of paper and cereal straw could be carried out in a packed bed reactor, but attention would need to be given to the heat transfer characteristics of the reactor, to provide for cooling and heating of the substrate; and also to minimizing damage to the reducing sugars as the HC1 gas is being removed from the reactor at the completion of the hydrolysis.

It was proposed that HC1 gas phase hydrolysis could be examined in a pilot plant study of the complete ethanol from cellulose process.

Publication Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Supervisor: Ho, Goen
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