High titer and yield ethanol production from undetoxified whole slurry of Douglas-fir Forest residue using pH profiling in SPORL

Jinlan Cheng, Shao Yuan Leu, J. Y. Zhu, Rolland Gleisner

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Forest residue is one of the most cost-effective feedstock for biofuel production. It has relatively high bulk density and can be harvested year round, advantageous for reducing transportation cost and eliminating onsite storage. However, forest residues, especially those from softwood species, are highly recalcitrant to biochemical conversion. A severe pretreatment for removing this recalcitrance can result in increased sugar degradation to inhibitors and hence cause difficulties in fermentation at high solid loadings. Here, we presented high titer ethanol production from Douglas-fir forest residue without detoxification. The strong recalcitrance of the Douglas-fir residue was removed by sulfite pretreatment to overcome the recalcitrance of lignocelluloses (SPORL). Sugar degradation to inhibitors was substantially reduced using a novel approach of "pH profiling" by delaying acid application in pretreatment, which facilitated the simultaneous enzymatic saccharification and fermentation of undetoxified whole slurry at a solid loading of 21%. Results: "pH profiling" reduced furan production by approximately 70% in using SPORL pretreating Douglas-fir forest residue (FS-10) comparing with the control run while without sacrificing enzymatic saccharification of the resultant substrate. pH profiling also reduced carbohydrate degradation. The improved carbohydrate yield in pretreated solids and reduced fermentation inhibitors with pH profiling resulted in a terminal ethanol titer of 48.9 ± 1.4 g/L and yield of 297 ± 9 L/tonne FS-10, which are substantially higher, i.e., by 27% in titer and by 38% in yield, than those of a control SPORL run without pH profiling. Conclusions: Economical and large-volume production of commodity biofuels requires the utilization of feedstocks with low value (therefore low cost) and sustainably producible in large quantities, such as forest residues. However, most existing pretreatment technologies cannot remove the strong recalcitrance of forest residues to produce practically fermentable high titer sugars. Here, we demonstrated a commercially scalable and efficient technology capable of removing the strong recalcitrant nature of forest residues using "pH profiling" together with "low temperature SPORL". The resultant pretreated whole slurry of a Douglas-fir forest residue using this technology can be easily processed at high solids of 21% without detoxification to achieve a high ethanol yield of 297 L/tonne at 48.9 g/L.
Original languageEnglish
Article number22
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation
  • Fermentation inhibitors
  • Forest residue
  • High solids processing
  • High-titer biofuel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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