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Pretreatment of Woody Biomass for Biofuel Production

Presenter: J.Y. Zhu, USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Lab

Hosted by: Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA)

Biofuel production from woody biomass through the sugar platform requires efficient production of fermentable sugars either chemically and enzymatically by hydrolyzing polysaccharides in wood cell walls. Enzymatic sugar production is a mature technology that can produce high quality sugars but requires a pre-treatment step to open wood cell wall structure to improve its accessibility to enzymes, because nature produces wood as a structural material that is not easily accessible to most microbes to deconstruct into basic building blocks such as simple sugars. Unfortunately, pre-treatment is the most expensive step in biofuel production through enzymatic saccharification and fermentation. This is especially true for woody biomass due to its high lignin content and strong physical integrity. Pre-treatment softwood and harvest softwood forest residue, the feedstock NARA project proposed to use, is even more difficult. Most existing pre-treatment processes cannot produce good enzymatic digestibility from softwood. In this webinar, I will outline the basic principles of pre-treatment, its limitations, and its effect on downstream co-product development. Especially, I will discuss the SPORL pre-treatment NARA adopted for bio-jet fuel production, its versatility, performance, kinetics based process scale-up, and lignin co-product.

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NARA webinars benefit industry (primary and secondary manufacturers, chemical, and biofuel), researchers, contractors, land managers, policymakers, state and local agency personnel, NGOs, educators, and students – all who are interested and involved in operations converting forest-based biomass to biofuels and co-products.

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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