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Several companies engineer hydrolysis plants. One, the Biofine process, is a commercialized technology that uses two-step dilute mineral acid hydrolysis to break down biomass containing lignocellulose into intermediate chemicals that can be further transformed into MeTHF and chemical products. A brief description of the process is:

(1) The waste is mixed with an acid-water solution to form a slurry.

(2) The chemical structure is broken down into three main chemicals, furfural, levulinic acid, and lignin in a two-stage chemical reactor (a high temperature tubular reactor into which steam is injected followed by a second stage mixed reactor).

(3) The levulinic acid and furfural is concentrated and recovered.

(4) The acid catalyst is recycled within the process and aqueous vapors are condensed and recycled. Solid char formed from the lignin in the feed is fed to a gasifier to make hydrogen. The furfural and the levulinic acid are purified and hydrogenated to make the MeTHF.

The Biofine process was developed by BioMetics, Inc. with funding from the U.S. DOE.

A pilot plant was built in South Glens Falls, New York and has been operating since 1998. A commercial plant is near completion in Caserta, Italy.

Property of The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security 2003, 2004. All rights reserved.