This project’s aim was to demonstrate the economically-viable production of butanol, hydrogen fuels and other chemicals from autoclave-pretreated municipal solid waste (MSW), Grape Marc and Brewery Waste by hydrolysis and fermentation. It was planned to develop a new demonstration scale plant that could potentially treat 1.5 tonnes of MSW a day, and provide the expertise and data necessary for a full assessment of a commercial scale process. The demonstration plant would use established technologies for hydrolysis, fermentation, and separation of chemicals. The products were to be removed from the fermentation broth by gas stripping followed by decantation and distillation. In addition, the hydrogen gas produced during the fermentation would be purified using pressure swing adsorption technology. Following design and manufacture of the autoclave plant, optimization of enzymatic hydrolysis, fermentation parameters were to be fed into the design of the fermentation plant and the ancillaries for product recovery. At the end of the project continuous trials in a commercial scenario were planned.
University of York (UoY) established a site for the Demonstrator plant and waste pretreatment and hydrolysis work was undertaken using a 50kg capacity pilot scale plant. The small scale pretreatment, hydrolysis and fermentation of the three types of waste was carried out to optimise conditions to trial at larger scale. This work involved Wilson Steam Storage (WSS)(project coordinator), University of Nottingham and Wageningen Food and Bio based Research (WFBR) with support from the University of York. WSS began procurement of autoclave equipment for the demonstration scale facilities, following design work to specify the overall layout of the facilities. The detailed specification and procurement of the hydrolyser, fermentor and chemical recovery equipment followed based upon findings from the work at small scale. Life cycle assessment of the process, at pilot and demonstration scale, ran in parallel.
Unfortunately, the investment funds needed to build the demonstration facility were not guaranteed and this lack of finance lead to the closure of the project. The project coordinator is actively seeking investment funds in order to build the demonstration plant.