Commenced in January 2007
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2 Biorefinery Annexed to South African Sugar Mill: Energy Sufficiency Analysis

Authors: S. Farzad, M. Ali Mandegari, J. F. Görgens


The South African Sugar Industry, which has a significant impact on the national economy, is currently facing problems due to increasing energy price and low global sugar price. The available bagasse is already combusted in low-efficiency boilers of the sugar mills while bagasse is generally recognized as a promising feedstock for second generation bioethanol production. Establishment of biorefinery annexed to the existing sugar mills, as an alternative for the revitalization of sugar industry producing biofuel and electricity has been proposed and considered in this study. Since the scale is an important issue in the feasibility of the technology, this study has taken into account a typical sugar mill with 300 ton/hr sugar cane capacity. The biorefinery simulation is carried out using Aspen PlusTM V8.6, in which the sugar mill’s power and steam demand has been considered. Hence, sugar mills in South Africa can be categorized as highly efficient, efficient, and not efficient with steam consumption of 33, 40, and 60 tons of steam per ton of cane and electric power demand of 10 MW; three different scenarios are studied. The sugar cane bagasse and tops/trash are supplied to the biorefinery process and the wastes/residues (mostly lignin) from the process are burnt in the CHP plant in order to produce steam and electricity for the biorefinery and sugar mill as well. Considering the efficient sugar mill, the CHP plant has generated 5 MW surplus electric powers, but the obtained energy is not enough for self-sufficiency of the plant (Biorefinery and Sugar mill) due to lack of 34 MW heat. One of the advantages of second generation biorefinery is its low impact on the environment and carbon footprint, thus the plant should be self-sufficient in energy without using fossil fuels. For this reason, a portion of fresh bagasse should be sent to the CHP plant to meet the energy requirements. An optimization procedure was carried out to find out the appropriate portion to be burnt in the combustor. As a result, 20% of the bagasse is re-routed to the combustor which leads to 5 tons of LP Steam and 8.6 MW electric power surpluses.

Keywords: Biorefinery, Energy Analysis, Bioethanol, sugarcane bagasse, sugar mill

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1 Techno-Economic Assessments of Promising Chemicals from a Sugar Mill Based Biorefinery

Authors: Kathleen Frances Haigh, Mieke Nieder-Heitmann, Somayeh Farzad, Mohsen Ali Mandegari, Johann Ferdinand Gorgens


Lignocellulose can be converted to a range of biochemicals and biofuels. Where this is derived from agricultural waste, issues of competition with food are virtually eliminated. One such source of lignocellulose is the South African sugar industry. Lignocellulose could be accessed by changes to the current farming practices and investments in more efficient boilers. The South African sugar industry is struggling due to falling sugar prices and increasing costs and it is proposed that annexing a biorefinery to a sugar mill will broaden the product range and improve viability. Process simulations of the selected chemicals were generated using Aspen Plus®. It was envisaged that a biorefinery would be annexed to a typical South African sugar mill. Bagasse would be diverted from the existing boilers to the biorefinery and mixed with harvest residues. This biomass would provide the feedstock for the biorefinery and the process energy for the biorefinery and sugar mill. Thus, in all scenarios a portion of the biomass was diverted to a new efficient combined heat and power plant (CHP). The Aspen Plus® simulations provided the mass and energy balance data to carry out an economic assessment of each scenarios. The net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR) and minimum selling price (MSP) was calculated for each scenario. As a starting point scenarios were generated to investigate the production of ethanol, ethanol and lactic acid, ethanol and furfural, butanol, methanol, and Fischer-Tropsch syncrude. The bypass to the CHP plant is a useful indicator of the energy demands of the chemical processes. An iterative approach was used to identify a suitable bypass because increasing this value had the combined effect of increasing the amount of energy available and reducing the capacity of the chemical plant. Bypass values ranged from 30% for syncrude production to 50% for combined ethanol and furfural production. A hurdle rate of 15.7% was selected for the IRR. The butanol, combined ethanol and furfural, or the Fischer-Tropsch syncrude scenarios are unsuitable for investment with IRRs of 4.8%, 7.5% and 11.5% respectively. This provides valuable insights into research opportunities. For example furfural from sugarcane bagasse is an established process although the integration of furfural production with ethanol is less well understood. The IRR for the ethanol scenario was 14.7%, which is below the investment criteria, but given the technological maturity it may still be considered for investment. The scenarios which met the investment criteria were the combined ethanol and lactic acid, and the methanol scenarios with IRRs of 20.5% and 16.7%, respectively. These assessments show that the production of biochemicals from lignocellulose can be commercially viable. In addition, this assessment have provided valuable insights for research to improve the commercial viability of additional chemicals and scenarios. This has led to further assessments of the production of itaconic acid, succinic acid, citric acid, xylitol, polyhydroxybutyrate, polyethylene, glucaric acid and glutamic acid.

Keywords: Biorefineries, methanol, Ethanol, sugar mill

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