A Coarse Techno-Economic Model of a Combined Fermentation-Catalysis Route to Sorbic Acid
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The conversion of biomass into bulk chemicals provides the potential for multiple environmental and economic benefits. While current research in industrial biotechnology focuses primarily on biocatalysts, a significant opportunity exists when combining biological and chemical catalysis into one process train. This hybrid process approach will potentially produce a wide array of economically viable molecules. One test-case of this hybrid approach is the production of sorbic acid via biocatalytic conversion of glucose to 4-Hydroxy-6-methyl-2-pyrone (HMP), followed by catalytic conversion of HMP to sorbic acid. Current collaborative research has developed this process to the stage where gram-quantities of biologically-produced HMP have been delivered to catalysis to produce butyl sorbate (a hydrolysis step can then take this to sorbic acid). Although the final process details needed for a detailed technoeconomic analyses are several years away, it is desirable to understand a coarse structure of the economics of such a process. Such an understanding can provide insight into opportunities for process improvement, as well as into fundamental technoeconomic limitations of the approach. To this end, we have developed a spreadsheet-based model of this hybrid process and have estimated the sorbic acid production cost from the process, which are then compared to current wholesale prices. We also report results of a comprehensive sensitivity analysis to demonstrate potential process improvements.
This is an ASABE Meeting Presentation, Paper No. 12-1337523.