288193 Production of Hydroxymethylfurfural From Sugars or Renewable Biomass Feedstock As a Potential Platform Intermediate for Bio-Plastics

Monday, October 29, 2012: 4:05 PM
306 (Convention Center )
Wei Liu, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA


There has been world-wide interest in making plastics out of renewable biomass feedstock for recent years. Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is viewed as an attractive alternate to terephthalic acid (TPA) for production of polyesters (PET) and polyamides. An economic production process needs to be developed to make HMF at a cost competitive with current petroleum-derived feedstock. Conversion of sugars into HMF has been studied in numerous publications.  In this presentation, a brief overview of those literature reports pertinent to a practical process development will be presented. A complete ionic liquid-based catalytic process recently developed at PNNL will be discussed. This new process comprises integration of ionic liquid catalytic conversion with adsorption separation. The ionic liquid catalytic reaction is conducted under moderate reaction conditions and provides both high reactivity and selectivity, which is practical for scale-up. The main challenge lied in separation of reaction mixtures. Thus, novel membrane-coated zeolite adsorbent particles are invented, and the adsorption process is demonstrated for isolation of 99% pure HMF product and complete recovery of the ionic liquid and un-converted species.  The new process enables nearly 100% conversion of fresh fructose feed into HMF product in the recycled ionic liquid. A simplified process flow diagram is conceived based on these innovations, and the key equipment such as reactor and adsorbent bed is sized for a plant of 200,000 ton/year of fructose processing capacity. The proposed HMF production process is much simpler than the current paraxylene (PX) manufacturing process from petroleum oil, which suggests substantial reduction to the capital cost and energy consumption is possible. At the equivalent value to PX on the molar basis, there can be a large gross margin for HMF production from fructose and/or sugars.

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