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Chementator: Ethanol from peels

By Chemical Engineering |

Although citrus peels are rich in pectin, cellulose and hemicellusic polysaccharides, such waste products are currently marketed as low-value cattle feed, despite its relatively high processing cost, according to the ARS Citrus and Subtropical Products Laboratory (Winter Haven, Fla.; edlinks.chemengonline.com/5829-544). An alternative process, which enzymatically converts the residue into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol, is being developed by ARS, together with R&D partner Renewable Spirits LLC (Delray Beach, Fla.). Since the collaboration began in 2004, the researchers have reduced the ethanol production costs by cutting the amount of enzyme required. The group estimates that the process can double the value of the waste by also recovering limonene from the peels. A 10,000-gal/batch pilot plant for making fuel-grade ethanol is planned to be operational later this year. In Florida alone, a total of 1.2-million m.t./yr of the dried peel residue is generated from the citrus industry. Such a volume of waste peels is enough to yield up to 80 million gal/yr of ethanol, according to ARS chemist William Widmer.   Click here for a full pdf version of the Chementator Section
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