Small-scale processing of biomass for biorefinery

M.E. Bruins, J.P.M. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The current fossil-based economy is moving towards a more bio-based economy. To enable this transition, many different processes for biorefinery are being developed. Small-scale biorefinery processes can be beneficial, not only socially and ecologically, but also economically. The main motivation for small-scale biorefinery is local re-use of materials, like water, minerals, organic matter, CO2, and heat. This minimizes costs for recycling and transport. A smart and integrated process design can beat the advantages of economy of scale applied in large-scale processes. Examples of two fully operational small-scale systems that produce ethanol and starch are given to illustrate our theory. Specific design rules for small-scale biorefineries are defined. The focus in design for small-scale processes should be on minimizing capital costs. Moreover, it is shown that separation of relatively simple pre-processing at small decentralized and more capital-intensive processing at large centralized factories, respectively, is advantageous. Integration with a biogas and combined heat and power (CHP) unit will furthermore allow usage of residual material to produce energy needed in the rest of the process
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-145
JournalBiofuels Bioproducts and Biorefining
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • bulk chemicals
  • cost
  • economy
  • heat
  • energy
  • waste
  • plant
  • water
  • power

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