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Lignin removal after enzymatic treatment of lignocellulosic materials

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Publication number
WO2012155239A1
WO2012155239A1 PCT/CA2012/000435 CA2012000435W WO2012155239A1 WO 2012155239 A1 WO2012155239 A1 WO 2012155239A1 CA 2012000435 W CA2012000435 W CA 2012000435W WO 2012155239 A1 WO2012155239 A1 WO 2012155239A1
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WO
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Prior art keywords
stream
process
hydrolysis
enzymatic
enzyme
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PCT/CA2012/000435
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French (fr)
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Murray J. Burke
Daniel Jing LIAO
Bradley Saville
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Mascoma Canada Inc.
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    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C13SUGAR INDUSTRY
    • C13KSACCHARIDES, OTHER THAN SUCROSE, OBTAINED FROM NATURAL SOURCES OR BY HYDROLYSIS OF NATURALLY OCCURRING DI-, OLIGO- OR POLYSACCHARIDES
    • C13K1/00Glucose; Glucose-containing syrups
    • C13K1/02Glucose; Glucose-containing syrups obtained by saccharification of cellulosic materials
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C08ORGANIC MACROMOLECULAR COMPOUNDS; THEIR PREPARATION OR CHEMICAL WORKING-UP; COMPOSITIONS BASED THEREON
    • C08HDERIVATIVES OF NATURAL MACROMOLECULAR COMPOUNDS
    • C08H6/00Macromolecular compounds derived from lignin, e.g. tannins, humic acids
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C08ORGANIC MACROMOLECULAR COMPOUNDS; THEIR PREPARATION OR CHEMICAL WORKING-UP; COMPOSITIONS BASED THEREON
    • C08HDERIVATIVES OF NATURAL MACROMOLECULAR COMPOUNDS
    • C08H8/00Macromolecular compounds derived from lignocellulosic materials
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12NMICROORGANISMS OR ENZYMES; COMPOSITIONS THEREOF; PROPAGATING, PRESERVING OR MAINTAINING MICROORGANISMS; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING; CULTURE MEDIA
    • C12N1/00Microorganisms, e.g. protozoa; Compositions thereof; Processes of propagating, maintaining or preserving microorganisms or compositions thereof; Processes of preparing or isolating a composition containing a microorganism; Culture media therefor
    • C12N1/22Processes using, or culture media containing, cellulose or hydrolysates thereof
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12PFERMENTATION OR ENZYME-USING PROCESSES TO SYNTHESISE A DESIRED CHEMICAL COMPOUND OR COMPOSITION OR TO SEPARATE OPTICAL ISOMERS FROM A RACEMIC MIXTURE
    • C12P19/00Preparation of compounds containing saccharide radicals
    • C12P19/02Monosaccharides
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12PFERMENTATION OR ENZYME-USING PROCESSES TO SYNTHESISE A DESIRED CHEMICAL COMPOUND OR COMPOSITION OR TO SEPARATE OPTICAL ISOMERS FROM A RACEMIC MIXTURE
    • C12P19/00Preparation of compounds containing saccharide radicals
    • C12P19/14Preparation of compounds containing saccharide radicals produced by the action of a carbohydrase (EC 3.2.x), e.g. by alpha-amylase, e.g. by cellulase, hemicellulase
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12PFERMENTATION OR ENZYME-USING PROCESSES TO SYNTHESISE A DESIRED CHEMICAL COMPOUND OR COMPOSITION OR TO SEPARATE OPTICAL ISOMERS FROM A RACEMIC MIXTURE
    • C12P7/00Preparation of oxygen-containing organic compounds
    • C12P7/02Preparation of oxygen-containing organic compounds containing a hydroxy group
    • C12P7/04Preparation of oxygen-containing organic compounds containing a hydroxy group acyclic
    • C12P7/06Ethanol, i.e. non-beverage
    • C12P7/08Ethanol, i.e. non-beverage produced as by-product or from waste or cellulosic material substrate
    • C12P7/10Ethanol, i.e. non-beverage produced as by-product or from waste or cellulosic material substrate substrate containing cellulosic material
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C13SUGAR INDUSTRY
    • C13KSACCHARIDES, OTHER THAN SUCROSE, OBTAINED FROM NATURAL SOURCES OR BY HYDROLYSIS OF NATURALLY OCCURRING DI-, OLIGO- OR POLYSACCHARIDES
    • C13K13/00Sugars not otherwise provided for in this class
    • C13K13/002Xylose
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C13SUGAR INDUSTRY
    • C13KSACCHARIDES, OTHER THAN SUCROSE, OBTAINED FROM NATURAL SOURCES OR BY HYDROLYSIS OF NATURALLY OCCURRING DI-, OLIGO- OR POLYSACCHARIDES
    • C13K13/00Sugars not otherwise provided for in this class
    • C13K13/007Separation of sugars provided for in subclass C13K
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02EREDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GASES [GHG] EMISSION, RELATED TO ENERGY GENERATION, TRANSMISSION OR DISTRIBUTION
    • Y02E50/00Technologies for the production of fuel of non-fossil origin
    • Y02E50/10Biofuels
    • Y02E50/16Cellulosic bio-ethanol

Abstract

This application relates to a two-stage enzymatic hydrolysis process for treating lignocellulosic materials and producing a sugar rich process stream, wherein lignin is reduced or removed from the sugar rich process stream.

Description

TITLE: LIGNIN REMOVAL AFTER ENZYMATIC TREATMENT OF

LIGNOCELLULOSIC MATERIALS

FIELD

[0001] This application relates to a method for treating plant materials to release fermentable sugars using enzymes, and the subsequent removal of lignin from a sugar rich process stream. More specifically, this application relates to a two-stage enzymatic hydrolysis process for treating lignocellulosic materials and producing a sugar rich process stream, wherein lignin is reduced or removed from the sugar rich process stream.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Although biomass has long shown promise as a renewable source of fuel energy, there remains a need for more efficient means of transforming biomass into suitable biofuels. Plant materials are a significant source of fermentable sugars, such as glucose that can be transformed into biofuels. However, the sugars in plant materials are contained in long polymeric chains of cellulose and hemicellulose. Utilizing current fermentation processes, it is necessary to break down these polymeric chains into monomeric sugars, prior to the fermenting step.

[0003] Methods of converting plant biomass into fermentable sugars are known in the art and in general, comprise two main steps: a pretreatment step to loosen the plant structure, and an enzymatic or chemical hydrolysis step to convert the polymeric chains of cellulose and hemicellulose into monomeric sugars. Several approaches have been used for the pretreatment step, e.g., autohydrolysis, acid hydrolysis, ammonia activation, kraft pulping, organic solvent pulping, hot water pretreatment, ammonia percolation, lime pretreatment, caustic solvent pulping, and alkali peroxide pretreatment. Each pretreatment technology has a different mechanism of action on the plant structure, inducing either physical and/or chemical modifications. However, the main objective of the pretreatment is to provide accessibility of the plant material to the enzymes. In the autohydrolysis process, the acetyl groups attached to hemicelluloses are broken down by steam and pressure releasing organic acids, e.g., acetic acid, giving the conditions for a mild acid hydrolysis process. Although a simple process, the yield of fermentable sugars is poor, in addition to the process requiring a significant amount of energy.

[0004] Enzymatic hydrolysis, using enzymes such as hemicellulases and cellulases, may be used to catalyze the hydrolysis of hemicellulose or cellulose to simple sugars, which can then be subjected to fermentation to produce ethanol.

[0005] Overall, the production process is complex and has low conversion rates. Cellulosic ethanol processes, namely processes that produce ethanol from sugars obtained by breaking down the cellulose and/or hemicellulose from non- corn plant fiber (i.e. plant fiber that excludes corn kernels), typically produce a raw alcohol stream having an ethanol content of about 2 - 6% v/v. Accordingly, ethanol from plant stalks and similar biomass may not be cost competitive with ethanol made from corn kernels.

SUMMARY

[0006] This application relates to a two-stage enzymatic process to prepare a sugar rich process stream from a feedstock derived from plant materials, in which the lignin in the sugar rich process stream has been reduced or removed. The process and apparatus may result in the conversion of at least 60%, preferably more than 75% and more preferably over 90% of the cellulose and hemicelluloses to monomeric sugars. The sugar rich process stream may subsequently be subjected to fermentation to produce an alcohol stream. The alcohol stream from the fermentation stage (i.e., the raw alcohol stream) may have an ethanol content of about 3 to about 22% v/v. Optional operating ranges include about 5 to about 15% and preferably about 5 to about 22% as well as about 8 to about 12%, preferably about 8 to about 15% and more preferably about 8 to about 22% (v/v). Such alcohol concentrations may be obtained without using corn as a feedstock.

[0007] With the process and apparatus described in this application, cellulose ethanol plants may produce a raw alcohol stream having a comparable alcohol concentration to that obtained by corn based ethanol plants, namely plants that produce ethanol from sugars obtained from the starch in corn. Accordingly, one advantage of the process and apparatus of this invention is that the amount of water to be removed from the raw alcohol stream to produce a fuel ethanol stream having a comparable concentration to the concentration of a product stream from a corn based ethanol plant is substantially reduced compared to current cellulosic ethanol plant technology. As a fuel ethanol stream is typically produced by distillation, the process and apparatus described here therefore results in a substantial reduction in energy required for the distillation process and, optionally, a substantial reduction in the size (i.e., the diameter) of the distillation column compared to current cellulose ethanol plant technology. Furthermore, as the ethanol concentration increases in the raw ethanol stream, the fermentation volume decreases, representing a 2 to 3 times reduction when compared to current cellulosic ethanol plant technology.

[0008] An advantage of the process of the invention is the reduction or removal of lignin from the sugar rich process stream, as lignin acts as an inhibitor of fermentation organisms in conventional downstream fermentation processes. Accordingly, the removal or reduction of lignin increases the conversion of the sugar rich process stream to alcohol by the fermentation organisms. [0009] In one embodiment therefore, there is a method for treating a lignocellulosic feedstock comprising cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin to produce a sugar rich process stream, the method comprising:

(a) subjecting the feedstock to a first enzymatic hydrolysis process to preferentially solubilize xylose and obtaining an effluent stream;

(b) subjecting the effluent stream to a second enzymatic hydrolysis process to preferentially solubilize cellulose and obtaining a sugar rich process stream;

(c) treating the sugar rich process stream to reduce the level of lignin and obtaining a lignin stream and a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream; and

(d) fermenting the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream.

[0010] Another advantage of the process of the invention is the recovery and recycling of the enzymes used in each stage of the enzymatic process which permits enzymes that would otherwise be lost, being redeployed to an alternate stage where the enzymes may be efficaciously used. Accordingly, the amount of enzymatic hydrolysis occurring per unit of enzymes is increased. In one embodiment, at least some of the enzymes from each of the enzymatic stages are recovered from product streams and recycled for further use in the enzymatic hydrolysis stages. In one embodiment, the product streams are subjected to ultrafiltration and/or diafiltration to recover the enzymes.

[0011] In one embodiment, the feedstock is subjected to a first enzymatic hydrolysis process to preferentially solubilize xylose and obtain an effluent stream. During the first enzymatic hydrolysis process or stage, hemicellulose and cellulose are broken down, preferably to solubilize oligosaccharides of sugars. During this step, it is preferred to preferentially hydrolyze the hemicelluloses instead of the celluloses, and therefore solubilize xylose to obtain an effluent stream (e.g., preferentially acts on the hemicellulose relative to the cellobiose in the feedstock). For example, this process step may utilize an enzyme preparation comprising hemicellulase and cellulase activities. While it will be appreciated that a suitable enzyme preparation will typically contain enzymes that may act on the cellulose, it is preferred that only a portion of the celluloses will be converted.

[0012] Subsequently, the effluent stream from the first enzymatic hydrolysis process is subjected to a second enzymatic hydrolysis process or stage to preferentially solubilize cellulose and obtain a sugar rich process stream. The second enzymatic hydrolysis process preferably utilizes enzymes to hydrolyze cellulose as well as to convert the oligosaccharides to monomeric sugars suitable for fermentation. Preferably, this second enzyme preparation comprises beta- glucosidase activities. For example, the second enzyme preparation may have an activity to convert cellulose and cellobiose to monomers and cello- oligosaccharides. In this second enzymatic hydrolysis process, it is preferred that all, or essentially all, (e.g., preferably at least about 60, more preferably at least about 75 and most preferably at least about 90%) of the remaining cellulose and hemicelluloses, and their respective oligosaccharides, are converted, to the extent desired, but preferably to the extent commercially feasible, to monomeric sugars.

[0013] In one embodiment, the second enzymatic hydrolysis process or stage may also utilize fermentation organisms to simultaneously ferment the sugar rich process stream to alcohol.

[0014] Without being limited by theory, oligosaccharides, and in particular cellobiose, have an inhibitory effect on cellulase enzymes and, in particular, on endo-gluconases and cellobiohydrolases. Accordingly, in the first stage, the hemicelluloses, and optionally the cellulose, are treated with enzymes to produce soluble sugars, for example, xylose. However, the process is preferably conducted so as not to render a substantial portion of the cellulose into monomers or dimers, such as cellobiose. While it will be appreciated that enzymatic hydrolysis will result in the production of some monomers and cellobiose, the process is preferably conducted so as to prevent a substantial inhibition of the enzymes. Subsequently, in the second enzymatic process, the oligosaccharides are subjected to enzymatic hydrolysis to produce fermentable sugars (preferably monomers).

[0015] Preferably, the first enzyme preparation preferentially acts on the hemicellulose to solubilize the xylose. In accordance with this embodiment, without being limited by theory, it is believed that in such a first enzymatic process, the hemicellulose is broken down into oligomers and monomers that are removed from the fiber as soluble compounds in an aqueous medium (preferably water). This targeted enzymatic process opens up the fiber structure by the breakdown of the hemicellulose and the removal of the lower molecular weight compounds. The resultant more open fiber structure permits enzymes, such as cellulases, to more readily enter the fiber structure and hydrolyze the cellulose.

[0016] Accordingly, the second enzymatic hydrolysis step preferably uses enzymes that preferentially target cellulose relative to hemicellulose in the feedstock (e.g., the second enzyme preparation preferentially acts on the cellulose and cellobiose relative to xylans in the feedstock). It will be appreciated that the second enzymatic hydrolysis step may use an enzyme preparation that includes enzymes that target hemicelluloses. However, as most of the hemicelluloses may have already been treated in the first stage, a relatively large percentage of such enzymes may not be required in the second enzyme preparation.

[0017] In addition, again without being bound by theory, it is believed that lignin has an inhibitory effect on fermentation organisms which convert sugars to alcohol. Accordingly, after the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage, the lignin is reduced or removed from the sugar rich process stream.

[0018] In this application, the term preferentially hydrolyze means that a significant portion of the enzymes that are used target the hemicelluloses instead of the celluloses (or vise versa), even though some of the enzymes present may still target the celluloses. Preferred preferential hydrolysis in the first stage, include hydrolyzing about 60% or more, and preferably about 85% or more, of the hemicelluloses while, preferably, hydrolyzing less than about 25%, and more preferably less than about 15% of the celluloses.

[0019] The first enzyme preparation preferentially acts upon the β-1 ,4 linkage of the xylose residues of xylan and the β-1 ,4 linkage of the mannose residues of mannan. However, many commercial hemicellulase enzyme preparations also possess cellulase activity. As the hemicellulose is hydrolyzed, water is released from the fiber, in addition to the production of oligosaccharides and monomeric sugars. This hydrolysis results in the reduction in the length of hemicellulose and cellulose polymer chains.

[0020] During the first stage enzymatic hydrolysis processes, acetyl groups are removed from the hemicellulose. In an aqueous medium, these form acetic acid. Acetic acid reduces the pH of the mixture in the reactor, e.g., from about 4.9 to about 4.4. This pH reduction has an inhibitory effect on the first stage enzyme preparation. Therefore, in accordance with a preferred embodiment, acetic acid is treated or removed from the process. For example, the acetic acid may be neutralized by the addition of a neutralizing agent (e.g., urea, anhydrous ammonia, aqueous ammonia, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide) and/or acetic acid may be removed from the process, such as by operating under vacuum. As acetic acid is relatively volatile, it may be drawn off by vacuum as it is produced. Further, as the first stage enzymatic process reduces the viscosity of the mixture in the reactor, the mixture is more easily induced to flow, e.g., due to stirring, and the acetic acid has a greater chance to reach the surface of the mixture and volatilize. [0021] Further aspects and advantages of the embodiments described herein will appear from the following description taken together with the accompanying drawing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0022] For a better understanding of the embodiments described herein and to show more clearly how they may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, by way of example only, to the accompanying drawing which shows at least one exemplary embodiment, and in which:

[0023] Figure 1 is a flow chart of the method according to embodiments that include lignin removal subsequent to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage;

[0024] Figure 2 is a flow chart of the method according to embodiments that include lignin removal and enzyme recovery subsequent to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage;

[0025] Figure 3 is a flow chart of the method according to embodiments that include sugar recovery and enzyme recovery subsequent to the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage and lignin removal and enzyme recovery subsequent to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage;

[0026] Figure 4 is a flow chart of the method according to embodiments that include lignin removal after the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage and sugar and enzyme recovery subsequent to the first and the second enzymatic hydrolysis stages; and

[0027] Figure 5 is a flow chart of the method according to embodiment that includes lignin removal after the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage and removal of inhibitors during enzyme recovery subsequent to both the first and second enzymatic hydrolysis stages. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0028] This application relates generally to a method of treating a lignocellulosic feedstock to breakdown cellulose and hemicellulose in the feedstock into monomeric sugars such as glucose, which may be fermented to produce alcohol, and also to reduce or remove the lignin present in the feedstock after the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage.

[0029] In addition, the product streams from one stage and, preferably, each stage of the enzymatic hydrolysis are treated such that at least some of the viable enzymes used in the enzymatic hydrolysis of hemicellulose and cellulose are recovered and optionally, can be recycled for use in further enzymatic hydrolysis reactions.

[0030] In an optional embodiment, the applicants have found that activating and/or physically modifying the feedstock prior to the enzymatic hydrolysis process results in an increased yield of fermentable sugars in the process stream and/or a faster reaction rate.

[0031] Figure 1 exemplifies a schematic of different embodiments of the invention. The processes to be discussed may be used singularly or in any particular combination or sub-combination. The lignocellulosic feedstock 10 is optionally first subjected to a pretreatment and optional steam explosion 2 to produce an activated feedstock 14, and then subsequently an optional disc refining step 16 to produce a fine particulate stream 18. It will be appreciated that neither of these optional steps, or one or both of these optional steps, may be utilized. The fine particulate stream is then subjected to a first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 20 to produce an effluent stream 22. As described above, the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 20 preferentially hydrolyzes the hemicelluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars of xylose and glucose. The effluent stream may also contain short oligosaccharides and other higher molecular weight oligosaccharides that have not been fully hydrolyzed in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage. The effluent stream 22 also contains lignin and unhydrolyzed cellulose, which is preferentially hydrolyzed in the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 24. The effluent stream further contains enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid and monomeric sugars (end product inhibition), which are products of the enzymatic hydrolysis and which inhibit the activity of the hemicellulases and cellulases used in the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 20 and 24.

[0032] The effluent stream 22, containing insoluble compounds such as cellulose and lignin, may then be subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 24. As described above, the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 24 preferentially hydrolyzes the celluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars, for example, glucose. The second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 24 produces a sugar rich process stream 26, which contains soluble monomeric sugars, and other insoluble components such as lignin, ash and unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and cellulose.

[0033] The sugar rich process stream 26 is then subjected to a solid/liquid separation 28, such as by means of a filter press, a decanting centrifuge, a vibratory screen, a hydrocyclone, or a belt filter, to produce a lignin stream 30 and a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 32. Accordingly, the lignin is removed from the product stream (32) before the sugars are subjected to fermentation. As lignin inhibits the yeast used in fermentation, the removal of lignin increases the yield of alcohol.

[0034] The lignin stream 30, containing lignin, ash and/or other insoluble components such as unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and/or cellulose, is optionally further processed to obtain a purified lignin stream. This lignin stream may then be disposed of or used in a subsequent process.

[0035] The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 32 containing soluble compounds that were produced during the first and second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 20 and 24, such as soluble monomeric sugars, short oligosaccharides and enzyme inhibitors, is then subjected to a separation step 34, for example by means of a chromatographic separation to remove enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid, and obtain an inhibitor rich stream 36 and a second sugar rich stream 38. The second sugar rich stream 38 is then subjected to fermentation 40.

[0036] Figure 2 exemplifies a schematic of different embodiments of the invention. The processes to be discussed may be used singularly or in any particular combination or sub-combination. The lignocellulosic feedstock 1 10 is optionally first subjected to a pretreatment and optional steam explosion 1 12 to produce an activated feedstock 1 14, and then subsequently an optional disc refining step 1 6 to produce a fine particulate stream 1 18. It will be appreciated that neither of these optional steps, or one or both of these optional steps, may be utilized. The fine particulate stream is then subjected to a first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 120 to produce an effluent stream 122. As described above, the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 120 preferentially hydrolyzes the hemicelluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars of xylose and glucose. The effluent stream may also contain short oligosaccharides and other higher molecular weight oligosaccharides that have not been fully hydrolyzed in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage. The effluent stream 122 also contains lignin and unhydrolyzed cellulose, which is preferentially hydrolyzed in the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 124. The effluent stream further contains enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid and monomeric sugars (end product inhibition), which are products of the enzymatic hydrolysis and which inhibit the activity of the hemicellulases and ceilulases used in the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 120 and 124.

[0037] The effluent stream 122, containing insoluble compounds such as cellulose and lignin, may then be subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 124. As described above, the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 124 preferentially hydrolyzes the celluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars, for example, glucose. The second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 124 produces a sugar rich process stream 126, which contains soluble monomeric sugars, and other insoluble components such as lignin, ash and unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and cellulose.

[0038] The sugar rich process stream 126 is then subjected to a solid/liquid separation 128, such as by means of a filter press, a decanting centrifuge, a vibratory screen, a hydrocyclone, or a belt filter, to produce a lignin stream 30 and a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 132. Accordingly, the lignin is removed from the product stream (32) before the sugars are subjected to fermentation. As lignin inhibits the yeast used in fermentation, the removal of lignin increases the yield of alcohol.

[0039] The lignin stream 30, containing lignin, ash and/or other insoluble components such as unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and/or cellulose, is optionally further processed to obtain a purified lignin stream. This lignin stream may then be disposed of or used in a subsequent process.

[0040] The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 132 may then be treated to recover enzymes utilized in the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages. Lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 132 is subjected to a separation step 134 for example a filtration step, for example a membrane separation such as nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, diafiltration or reverse osmosis, to obtain a recovered second stage enzyme stream 136 and a first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream 138. As described above, the first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream 138 comprises sugars which is then subjected to fermentation 140.

[0041] Figure 3 exemplifies a schematic of different embodiments of the invention. The processes to be discussed may be used singularly or in any particular combination or sub-combination. The lignocellulosic feedstock 210 is optionally first subjected to a pretreatment and optional steam explosion 212 to produce an activated feedstock 214, and then subsequently an optional disc refining step 216 to produce a fine particulate stream 218. It will be appreciated that neither of these optional steps, or one or both of these optional steps, may be utilized. The fine particulate stream is then subjected to a first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 220 to produce an effluent stream 222. As described above, the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 220 preferentially hydrolyzes the hemicelluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars of xylose and glucose. The effluent stream may also contain short oligosaccharides and other higher molecular weight oligosaccharides that have not been fully hydrolyzed in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage. The effluent stream 222 also contains lignin and unhydrolyzed cellulose, which is preferentially hydrolyzed in the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 228. The effluent stream 222 further contains enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid and monomeric sugars (end product inhibition), which are products of the enzymatic hydrolysis and which inhibit the activity of the hemicellulases and cellulases used in the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 220 and 228.

[0042] The effluent stream 222 may be subjected to a solid/liquid separation 224, for example by means of a filter press, or a decanting centrifuge, a belt filter, a vibratory screen and/or a hydrocyclone, to produce an inhibitor reduced stream (a solid stream) 226 and a treated effluent stream (a liquid stream) 230. The inhibitor reduced stream 226 contains insoluble solids, such as cellulose, which were not solubilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 220. The treated effluent stream 230, which in an embodiment is a clear filtrate stream, contains any of the soluble compounds that were produced during the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 220, such as soluble monomeric sugars, short oligosaccharides and enzyme inhibitors. Accordingly, enzyme inhibitors (inhibitors to the enzymes used in a second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 228) are removed from the inhibitor reduced stream 226 before being subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 228. [0043] The inhibitor reduced stream 226, containing insoluble compounds such as cellulose and lignin, may then be subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 228. As described above, the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 228 preferentially hydrolyzes the celluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars, for example, glucose.

[0044] The treated effluent stream 230 containing soluble compounds that were produced during the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 220, such as soluble monomeric sugars, short oligosaccharides and enzyme inhibitors, is then treated to recover enzymes utilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis process. Treated effluent stream 230 is subjected to a separation step 232, for example a filtration step, for example a membrane filtration separation such as nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, diafiltration or reverse osmosis, to obtain a recovered first stage enzyme stream 234 and a first enzyme reduced effluent stream 236. The recovered first stage enzyme stream 234 containing enzymes from the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 220 is recycled to the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 220 and/or 228. As described above, the first enzyme reduced effluent stream 236 comprises sugars, and other inhibitors such as acetic acid. The first enzyme reduced effluent stream 236 is then subjected to a separation step 244, for example by means of a chromatographic separation to remove enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid, and obtain an inhibitor rich stream 246 and an inhibitor reduced sugar rich stream 248. The inhibitor reduced sugar rich stream 248 is then subjected to fermentation 250.

[0045] The second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 228 produces a sugar rich process stream 230, which contains soluble monomeric sugars, and other insoluble components such as lignin, ash and unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and cellulose and may be subjected to a solid/liquid separation 232, for example by means of a filter press, or a decanting centrifuge, a belt filter, a vibratory screen and/or a hydrocyclone, to produce a lignin stream 234 and a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 236. The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 236 may then be treated to recover enzymes utilized in the second enzymatic hydrolysis process. The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 236 is subjected to a separation step 238, for example a filtration step, for example a membrane separation such as nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, diafiltration or reverse osmosis, to obtain a recovered second stage enzyme stream 240 and a second enzyme reduced effluent stream 242. The recovered second stage enzyme stream 240 containing enzymes from the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 228 is recycled to the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 220 and/or 228. The second enzyme reduced effluent stream 242 is then subjected to a separation step 244, for example by means of a chromatographic separation to remove enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid, and obtain an inhibitor rich stream 246 and an inhibitor reduced sugar rich stream 248. The inhibitor reduced sugar rich stream 248 is then subjected to fermentation 250. Accordingly, lignin (an inhibitor to the fermentation organisms) is removed from the sugar streams before being subjected to fermentation.

[0046] Figure 4 exemplifies a schematic of different embodiments of the invention. The processes to be discussed may be used singularly or in any particular combination or sub-combination. The lignocellulosic feedstock 310 is optionally first subjected to a pretreatment and optional steam explosion 3 2 to produce an activated feedstock 314, and then subsequently an optional disc refining step 316 to produce a fine particulate stream 3 8. It will be appreciated that neither of these optional steps, or one or both of these optional steps, may be utilized. The fine particulate stream is then subjected to a first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 320 to produce an effluent stream 322. As described above, the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 320 preferentially hydrolyzes the hemicelluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars of xylose and glucose. The effluent stream may also contain short oligosaccharides and other higher molecular weight oligosacchahdes that have not been fully hydrolyzed in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage. The effluent stream 322 also contains lignin and unhydrolyzed cellulose, which is preferentially hydrolyzed in the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 328. The effluent stream 322 further contains enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid and monomeric sugars (end product inhibition), which are products of the enzymatic hydrolysis and which inhibit the activity of the hemicellulases and cellulases used in the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 320 and 328.

[0047] The effluent stream 322 may be subjected to a solid/liquid separation 324, for example by means of a filter press, or a decanting centrifuge, a belt filter, a vibratory screen and/or a hydrocyclone, to produce an inhibitor reduced stream (a solid stream) 326 and a treated effluent stream (a liquid stream) 330. The inhibitor reduced stream 326 contains insoluble solids, such as cellulose, which were not solubilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 320. The treated effluent stream 330, which in an embodiment is a clear filtrate stream, contains any of the soluble compounds that were produced during the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 320, such as soluble monomeric sugars, short oligosaccharides and enzyme inhibitors. Accordingly, enzyme inhibitors (inhibitors to the enzymes used in a second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 328) are removed from the inhibitor reduced stream 326 before being subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 328. [0048] The inhibitor reduced stream 326, containing insoluble compounds such as cellulose and lignin, may then be subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 328. As described above, the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 328 preferentially hydrolyzes the celluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars, for example, glucose. [0049] The treated effluent stream 330 containing soluble compounds that were produced during the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 320, such as soluble monomeric sugars, short oligosaccharides and enzyme inhibitors, is then treated to recover enzymes utilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis process. Treated effluent stream 330 is subjected to a separation step 332, for example a filtration step, for example a membrane separation such as nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, diafiltration or reverse osmosis, to obtain a recovered first stage enzyme stream 334 and a first enzyme reduced effluent stream 338. The recovered first stage enzyme stream 334 containing enzymes from the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 320 is recycled to the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 320 and/or 328. As described above, the first enzyme reduced effluent stream 338 comprises sugars, and other inhibitors such as acetic acid. The first enzyme reduced effluent stream 338 may be subjected to a separation step to remove enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid. The enzyme reduced effluent stream 338 is then subjected to fermentation 340.

[0050] The second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 328 produces a sugar rich process stream 342, which contains soluble monomeric sugars, and other insoluble components such as lignin, ash and unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and cellulose and may be subjected to a solid/liquid separation 344, for example by means of a filter press, or a decanting centrifuge, a belt filter, a vibratory screen and/or a hydrocyclone, to produce a lignin stream 348 and a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 346. The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 346 may then be treated to recover enzymes utilized in the second enzymatic hydrolysis process as per the process above using the separation step 332. The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 346 is subjected to the separation step 332, for example a filtration step, for example a membrane separation such as nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, diafiltration or reverse osmosis, to obtain a recovered second stage enzyme stream 336 and a second enzyme reduced effluent stream 338. The recovered second stage enzyme stream 336 containing enzymes from the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 328 is recycled to the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 320 and/or 328. The second enzyme reduced effluent stream 338 (which can be combined with the first enzyme reduced stream) may be subjected to a separation step to remove enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid. The second enzyme reduced effluent stream is then subjected to fermentation 340.

[0051 ] Figure 5 exemplifies a schematic of different embodiments of the invention. The processes to be discussed may be used singularly or in any particular combination or sub-combination. The lignocellulosic feedstock 410 is optionally first subjected to a pretreatment and optional steam explosion 412 to produce an activated feedstock 414, and then subsequently an optional disc refining step 416 to produce a fine particulate stream 418. It will be appreciated that neither of these optional steps, or one or both of these optional steps, may be utilized. The fine particulate stream is then subjected to a first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 420 to produce an effluent stream 422. As described above, the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 420 preferentially hydrolyzes the hemicelluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars of xylose and glucose. The effluent stream may also contain short oligosaccharides and other higher molecular weight oligosaccharides that have not been fully hydrolyzed in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage. The effluent stream 422 also contains lignin and unhydrolyzed cellulose, which is preferentially hydrolyzed in the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 428. The effluent stream 422 further contains enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid and monomeric sugars (end product inhibition), which are products of the enzymatic hydrolysis and which inhibit the activity of the hemicellulases and cellulases used in the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 420 and 428.

[0052] The effluent stream 422 may be subjected to a solid/liquid separation 424, for example by means of a filter press, or a decanting centrifuge, a belt filter, a vibratory screen and/or a hydrocyclone, to produce an inhibitor reduced stream (a solid stream) 426 and a treated effluent stream (a liquid stream) 430. The inhibitor reduced stream 426 contains insoluble solids, such as cellulose, which were not solubilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 420. The treated effluent stream 430, which in an embodiment is a clear filtrate stream, contains any of the soluble compounds that were produced during the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 420, such as soluble monomeric sugars, short oligosaccharides and enzyme inhibitors. Accordingly, enzyme inhibitors (inhibitors to the enzymes used in a second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 428) are removed from the inhibitor reduced stream 426 before being subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 428.

[0053] The inhibitor reduced stream 426, containing insoluble compounds such as cellulose and lignin, may then be subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 428. As described above, the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 428 preferentially hydrolyzes the celluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars, for example, glucose.

[0054] The treated effluent stream 430 containing soluble compounds that were produced during the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 420, such as soluble monomeric sugars, short oligosaccharides and enzyme inhibitors, is then treated to recover enzymes utilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis process. Treated effluent stream 430 is subjected to a separation step 432, for example a filtration step, for example a membrane separation such as nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, diafiltration or reverse osmosis, to obtain a recovered first stage enzyme stream 434 and a first enzyme reduced effluent stream 436. The recovered first stage enzyme stream 434 containing enzymes from the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage 420 is recycled to the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 420 and/or 428. As described above, the first enzyme reduced effluent stream 436 comprises sugars, and other inhibitors such as acetic acid. The first enzyme reduced effluent stream 436 may be subjected to a separation step 438, for example by means of a chromatographic separation to remove enzyme inhibitors, such as acetic acid, and obtain an inhibitor rich stream 442 and an inhibitor reduced sugar rich stream 440. The inhibitor reduced sugar rich stream 440 is then subjected to fermentation 470. [0055] The second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 428 produces a sugar rich process stream 446, which contains soluble monomeric sugars, and other insoluble components such as lignin, ash and unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and cellulose and may be subjected to a solid/liquid separation 448, for example by means of a filter press, or a decanting centrifuge, a belt filter, a vibratory screen and/or a hydrocyclone, to produce a lignin stream 450 and a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 452. The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 452 may then be treated to recover enzymes utilized in the second enzymatic hydrolysis process. The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream 452 is subjected to a separation step 454, for example a filtration step, for example a membrane separation such as nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, diafiltration or reverse osmosis, to obtain a recovered second stage enzyme stream 458 and a first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream 456. The recovered second stage enzyme stream 458 containing enzymes from the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 428 can be recycled 460 to the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 420 and/or 428. Alternatively, the recovered second stage enzyme stream 458 is subjected to at least one membrane separation step 462, for example diafiltration, to obtain an inhibitor reduced recovered enzyme stream 466 and a second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream 464. The inhibitor reduced recovered enzyme stream 466 containing enzymes from the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage 428 can be recycled to the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages 420 and/or 428. The a first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream 456 and the second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream 464 are combined to form a combined enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream which can then be subjected to fermentation 470.

INPUT FEEDSTOCK

[0056] The lignocellulosic feedstock is derived from plant materials. As used herein, a "lignocellulosic feedstock" refers to plant fiber containing cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. The applicants contemplate other sources of plant materials comprising cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin for use in deriving lignocellulosic feedstocks and any of those may be used. In some embodiments, the feedstock may be derived from trees, preferably deciduous trees such as poplar (e.g., wood chips). Alternately or in addition, the feedstock may also be derived from agricultural residues such as corn stover, wheat straw, barley straw, rice straw, switchgrass, sorghum, bagasse, rice hulls and/or corn cobs. Preferably, the lignocellulosic feedstock comprises agricultural residues and wood biomass, more preferably wood biomass and most preferably deciduous. Accordingly, the feedstock may be any feedstock that does not contain edible agricultural produce, however such material may be used.

[0057] The lignocellulosic feedstock is preferably cleaned, e.g., to remove ash, silica, metal strapping (e.g., from agricultural products), stones and dirt. The size of the components of the lignocellulosic feedstock may also be reduced . The size of the components of the feedstock may be from about 0.05 to about 2 inches, preferably from about 0.1 to about 1 inch, and more preferably from about 0.125 to about 0.5 inches in length.

[0058] It will be appreciated that if the optional activation, extraction, hydrolysis or physical modification is not utilized, the feedstock may be further crushed, ground or otherwise modified so as to decrease the average particle size of the components and increase the surface area of the material in the feedstock. Accordingly, the size of the feedstock may be from about 0.0625 to about 2 inches, preferably from about 0.125 to about 1 inch and more preferably from about 0.125 to about 0.5 inches. Any process machinery that is able to crush, grind or otherwise decrease the particle size may be utilized. The feedstock that is fed to the optional disc refiner that is immediately upstream of the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage is preferably comprises from 1 % to 60% wt total solids. ACTIVATION

[0059] The lignocellulosic feedstock is optionally subjected to one or more activation steps prior to the feedstock being subject to enzymatic hydrolysis. As used herein an "activated" feedstock refers to a feedstock that has been treated so as to increase the susceptibility of cellulose and hemicellulose in the feedstock to subsequent enzymatic hydrolysis. In addition, the lignocellulosic feedstock may also be subjected to chemical or physical modification pretreatment, extraction or hydrolysis.

[0060] The applicants have found that certain processes for treating lignocellulosic feedstocks are surprisingly beneficial for preparing the feedstocks for enzymatic hydrolysis. Without being limited by theory, the applicant's believe that activation involves the chemical activation of hydrogen bond sites in the hemicellulose and cellulose polymer chains.

[0061 ] Methods of activation, extraction, hydrolysis, and chemical or physical modification include, but are not limited to, autohydrolysis, acid- hydrolysis, ammonia activation, disc refining, kraft pulping, organic solvent pulping, hot water pretreatment, ammonia percolation, lime pretreatment, caustic solvent pulping and alkali peroxide pretreatment, one or more of which may be used. Any process equipment known in the art may be used. Preferably, at least one of disc refining and autohydrolysis is utilized and more preferably, both are utilized.

[0062] In some embodiments, the feedstock is subjected to autohydrolysis. Autohydrolysis is a process of breaking down hemicellulose and cellulose by exposure to high temperatures, steam and pressure, preferably in the presence of a chemical agent or catalyst, such as sulphuric acid. When performed in the presence of an acid, an autohydrolysis process is known as an acid hydrolysis. Autohydrolysis often results in the release of acetic acid from the breakdown of acetylated hemicellulose, which further helps the hydrolysis process. [0063] Preferably, the autohydrolysis is conducted in a steam explosion digester, which is known in the art. For example, feedstock having a moisture content of about 45% to about 55% by weight may be fed to an autohydrolysis digester wherein the biomass is hydrolyzed under steam at high pressure (e.g. 100-400 psig) and temperature (e.g., 150 - 250°C), optionally in the presence of a catalyst, such as sulphuric acid. In autohydrolysis, the acetyl groups are hydrolyzed from the plant structure producing acetic acid. The release of acetic acid decreases the pH of the reaction mixture in the digester from, e.g., neutral, to acidic (e.g., 3.0 - 4.0) supplying acid conditions for a mild acid hydrolysis reaction. During the autohydrolysis step, hemicellulose is partially hydrolyzed to xylose, soluble xylo-oligosaccharides and other pentosans. The yield may be up to about 75%.

[0064] During autohydrolysis, the degree of polymerization of cellulose and hemicellulose may be reduced from about 10,000 to about 1 ,500-1 ,000. This process is preferably carried out above the glass transition temperature of lignin (120 - 160°C). Depending upon the severity of the reaction, degradation products may still be produced, such as furfural, hydroxyl-methylfurfural, formic acid, levulinic acid and other organic compounds.

[0065] At the instant of release from the digester (steam explosion), the biomass exits the high temperature, high pressure hydrolyzer into a reduced pressure, preferably atmospheric pressure and, more preferably into a vacuum. The pressure in the digester is suddenly released, e.g., in less than 1 second and preferably instantaneously. The rapid decrease in pressure results in the biomass separating into individual fibres or bundles of fibres. This step opens the fibre structure and increases the surface area. The lignin remains in the fibre along with cellulose and residual hemicellulose, which are then subjected to enzymatic hydrolysis for recovery of fermentable sugars from this residual cellulose and hemicellulose. [0066] In one embodiment, a lignocellulosic feedstock is fed into a water and heat impregnator, where water and/or catalyst may be added to the feedstock. The heating is preferably carried out without steam addition to avoid the random and uncontrollable addition of moisture. The feedstock may be assayed for moisture content in order to carefully control the amount of amount water added to the feedstock. In a preferred embodiment, the moisture content of the feedstock is from about 45% to about 55% by weight before the start of autohydrolysis. The moist feedstock is then subject to autohydrolysis in a hydrolyser. In some embodiments, the water and heat impregnation step can be performed in the same vessel as the hydrolyser.

[0067] The resulting autohydrolysed feedstock may enter a solid/vapor separation unit to produce a vapor stream and a solid stream. The separation unit may be operated at vacuum to remove acetic acid, furfural and other volatile compounds. The vapor stream may be passed to a scrubber to remove volatile products, including water, some of which may be recycled.

[0068] The resulting autohydrolyzed solid stream is then preferably subjected to disc refining prior to enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation. Any disc refiner known in the art may be used. Passing the chemically hydrolyzed lignocellulosic feedstock through a disc refiner further activates the feedstock and increases the susceptibility of the feedstock to enzymatic hydrolysis. The use of a disc refiner also reduces the size of the particles in the feedstock as well as increasing the total available surface area of the particles in the feedstock.

[0069] The temperature in the disc refiner is preferably maintained at less than 65°C. Above this temperature, sugar degradation may occur decreasing the sugar content in the material. Preferably, the moisture content of the fiber passing through the disc refiner is about 50 to about 99% by weight.

[0070] The applicants have found that a disc refiner can be used with a lignocellulosic feedstock at a range of different particle sizes. Preferably, the size of the particles fed to the disc refiner is from 0.0625 to 2 inches, more preferably 0.125 to 1 inch and most preferably 0.125 to 0.5 inches.

FIRST ENZYMATIC HYDROLYSIS STEP

[0071] The applicants herein describe a method for efficiently breaking down a lignocellulosic feedstock into fermentable sugars using enzymatic hydrolysis, and removing lignin from the product stream before the sugars are subjected to fermentation in a downstream fermenter. It will be appreciated that if simultaneous hydrolysis and fermentation is used, then only some of the sugars that are produced may be available for being fermented in a downstream fermenter. In addition, the application also describes recovering and recycling the enzymes for further use. Lignocellulosic feedstocks generally comprise cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin and have a high degree of polymerization. Hemicellulose is covalently linked to lignin, which in turn may be cross-linked to other polysaccharides such as cellulose resulting in a matrix of lignocellulosic material. Lignin is a hydrophobic cross-linked aromatic polymer and one of the major constituents of the cell walls of plants representing about one-quarter to one-third of the dry mass of wood.

[0072] Hemicellulose is a branched heteropolymer with a random, amorphous structure that includes a number of different sugar molecules such as xylose, glucose, mannose, galactose, rhamnose, and arabinose. Xylose is the most common sugar molecule present in hemicellulose. Xylose and arabinose are both pentosans, which are polymeric 5-carbon sugars present in plant material. [0073] Hemicellulase enzymes break down the hemicellulose structure and solubilize the xylose. The use of hemicellulase enzymes results in the breakdown of the xylan backbone and side chains into pentosans such as xylose, mannose, galactose and arabinose as well as other sugars and polysaccharides. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that most commercial preparations of hemicellulase enzyme also possess cellulase activity. Therefore, the first enzyme preparation (i.e., a hemicellulase enzyme preparation) used in the present disclosure, may possess about 10% to about 90% hemicellulase activity, preferably about 30% to about 90% hemicellulase activity and, more preferably about 50% or more (e.g., to about 90%) hemicellulase activity. In an embodiment, the hemicellulase preferentially acts upon the β-1 ,4 linkage of the xylose residues of xylan to solubilize the xylans and the β-1 ,4 linkage of the mannose residues of mannan. [0074] Cellulose is a linear polymer of glucose, wherein the glucose residues are held together by beta (1 Π4) glycosidic bonds. Cellulase enzymes catalyze the hydrolysis of cellulose into smaller polymeric units by breaking beta- glycosidic bonds. Endo-cellulase enzymes generally cleave internal glycosidic bonds in cellulose to create smaller polysaccharide chains, while exo-cellulase enzymes are able to cleave off 2-4 units of glucose from the ends of cellulose chains. Cellulase enzymes are not generally capable of cleaving cellulose into individual glucose molecules.

[0075] In contrast, cellobiase or beta-glucosidase enzymes catalyze the hydrolysis of a beta-glycosidic linkages resulting in the release of at least one glucose molecule. Beta-glucosidase is therefore able to cleave cellobiose, which consists of two molecules of glucose joined together by a beta-glycosidic bond.

[0076] A person skilled in the art will appreciate that enzymes may exhibit a range of different activities on different substrates. As used herein, an enzyme preparation "preferentially acts" on a substrate when the relative activity of the enzyme for that substrate is greater than for other possible substrates. For example, a hemicellulase would preferentially act on hemicellulose to produce pentosans relative to its activity for cellulose to produce glucose. [0077] An enzyme preparation may be a single enzyme or a combination of multiple enzymes. While enzyme preparations may be isolated from a number of sources such as natural cultures of bacteria, yeast or fungi a person skilled in the art will appreciate using enzymes produced using recombinant techniques. [0078] In some embodiments, the two-stage enzymatic hydrolysis process described in the present application is able to increase the total solids content of the resulting sugar rich process stream. As used herein, "total solids content" refers to the total amount of soluble and insoluble material in the feedstock. For example, in a lignocellulosic feedstock, soluble material would include monomeric sugars, some oligosaccharides, organic acids, extractives and low molecular weight compounds resulting from the autohydrolysis. Insoluble materials would include cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose. Suspensions with a high content of insoluble materials are generally difficult to process due to their high viscosity. Further, high-viscosity mixtures are difficult, if not impossible, to mix or handle through conventional pumping processes. In some embodiments, the sugar rich process stream described in the present application has a total solids content of greater than about 1 5%. In a further embodiment, the sugar rich process stream has a total solids content from about 15 to about 30%. In a further embodiment, the sugar rich process stream may have a total solids content up to about 50% (e.g. , about 1 5 to about 50%, preferably about 30 to about 50%).

[0079] While not limited by a particular theory, the applicants note that by performing the enzymatic hydrolysis in two stages, the hemicellulase enzymes and in particular xylanase are not exposed to inhibitory concentrations of sugar monomers and dimers, and in particular glucose and cellobiose, that are produced during the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage.

[0080] Accordingly, in one embodiment, the lignocellulosic feedstock is subjected to a first enzymatic hydrolysis process to preferentially solubilize xylose to obtain an effluent stream. The effluent stream is then subjected to a second enzymatic hydrolysis process to preferentially solubilize cellulose and to obtain a sugar rich process stream. In one embodiment, at least one of the effluent stream and the sugar rich process stream is treated to recover enzymes utilized in at least one of the first enzymatic hydrolysis process and the second enzymatic hydrolysis process to obtain a recovered enzyme stream.

[0081 ] The first enzymatic hydrolysis stage uses a first enzyme preparation that preferably comprises hemicellulase. As will be known by those skilled in the art, the hemicellulase preparation will also possess cellulase activity. In one embodiment, the first enzyme preparation is a xylanase enzyme cocktail such as Dyadic XBP™. In a further embodiment, the first enzyme preparation is AlternaFuel 100L™. It will be understood by a person skilled in the art that combinations of the enzyme preparations may be used. In an embodiment, the first enzyme preparation will possess hemicellulase activity from about 10% to about 90% and cellulase activity from about 90% to about 10%. In an embodiment, the hemicellulase activity will be from about 30% to about 90% and the cellulase activity will be from about 70% to about 10%. In a further embodiment, the hemicellulase activity will be from about 50% to about 90% and the cellulase activity will be from about 50 to about 10%.

[0082] In one embodiment, the pH of the process is adjusted using an acid stream or a base stream such that the pH of the feedstock is in a range suitable for enzymatic activity. In a preferred embodiment, the pH is adjusted to be between about 4.5 to about 6.0.

[0083] The temperature of the first enzymatic process may also be controlled. In one embodiment the temperature of the process is adjusted to be between about 20°C to about 70 °C. In a further embodiment, the first enzymatic process is conducted between about 30°C to about 70°C. The process may be cooled using indirect cooling water, or warmed using indirect steam heating or by other methods known in the art. [0084] The result of the first enzymatic process on the feedstock is an effluent stream that may comprise xylans, cellobiose, glucose, xylose, lignin, ash, and organic acids, in addition to the enzymes used for the enzymatic process. Generally, the action of the first enzyme preparation results in the production of short-chain polysaccharides (oligosaccharides) such as cellobiose but not large quantities of individual glucose molecules. Without being bound by theory, this is thought to prevent the hemicellulase enzymes in the first enzyme preparation from being inhibited by glucose molecules.

[0085] In one optional embodiment, the first enzymatic process is performed under vacuum and results in a volatile components stream, which can be removed from the low viscosity effluent stream. In one embodiment, the volatile component stream includes at least one yeast, fungi, bacteria or one or more enzyme inhibiting compounds present during the first enzymatic hydrolysis process and the volatile component stream that is drawn off includes at least one inhibiting compound. In another embodiment, the inhibiting compound in the volatile component stream may be one or more of acetic acid, furfural, formic acid, and any other volatile organic compounds.

SECOND ENZYMATIC HYDROLYSIS STEP [0086] In the second enzymatic hydrolysis process, the effluent stream is treated with a second enzyme preparation to produce a sugar rich process stream high in fermentable sugars such as glucose. Optionally, in one embodiment, the second enzymatic hydrolysis process may alternately, or in addition, contains fermentation organisms to simultaneously ferment the fermentable sugars and obtain an alcohol stream, such as ethanol.

[0087] The second enzyme preparation preferably primarily includes cellulase activity. In another embodiment, the second enzyme preparation comprises beta-glucosidase activity to convert disaccharides and other small polymers of glucose into monomeric glucose. In one embodiment, the second enzyme preparation is Novozym 188™, available from Novozymes™. In another embodiment, the second enzyme preparation is NS50073™. It will be understood by those in the art that combinations of the enzyme preparations may be used.

[0088] In one embodiment, the pH of the second hydrolysis process is adjusted using an acid stream or a base stream such that the pH of the feedstock slurry is in a range suitable for enzymatic activity. In a preferred embodiment, the pH is adjusted to be between about 4.5 to about 5.4. In an embodiment, the acid stream comprises any mineral acid. In another embodiment, the acid stream comprises nitric acid, sulphuric acid, phosphoric acid, acetic acid and/or hydrochloric acid. In an embodiment, the base stream comprises potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, ammonium hydroxide, urea and/or ammonia.

[0089] The temperature of the second enzymatic process may also be controlled. In one embodiment the temperature of the process adjusted to be between about 20 to about 70 °C. In a further embodiment, the second enzymatic process is conducted between about 30 to about 70°C. The process may be cooled using indirect cooling water, or warmed using indirect steam heating or by other methods known in the art. [0090] The resulting sugar rich process stream contains between about 5 to about 45% w/w fermentable sugars. Optional ranges include about 5 to about 30%, preferably about 10 to about 30% and more preferably about 1 5 to about 25%, as well as about 10 to about 45%, preferably about 15 to about 45% and more preferably about 25 to about 45%. The sugar rich process stream optionally also contains a total solids content of between about 1 0% to about 60%.

LIGNIN [0091] As described above, lignin is a hydrophobic cross-linked aromatic polymer and one of the major constituents of the cell walls of plants representing about one-quarter to one-third of the dry mass of wood. Hemicellulases and cellulases do not hydrolyze the lignin present in the lignocellulosic material and therefore, the lignin carries through the solid streams throughout the first and second enzymatic hydrolysis processes. However, the presence of lignin during the fermentation of the monomeric sugars reduces the amount of ethanol produced because lignin inhibits the fermentation yeast. Accordingly, it is advantageous to remove the lignin from the product stream before the stream is fermented for ethanol production.

[0092] In one embodiment, there is included a process to treat the sugar rich process stream from the second enzymatic hydrolysis process to reduce the level of lignin and obtain a lignin stream and a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream. The lignin reduced sugar rich process stream is subsequently fermented to produce ethanol.

[0093] In one embodiment, the sugar rich process stream is treated by solid/liquid separation to obtain the lignin stream and the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream. In one embodiment, the solid/liquid separation to remove the lignin comprises at least one of a decanting centrifuge, a filter press, a vibratory screen, a hydrocyclone, and a belt filter.

[0094] In addition, the lignin stream removed from the second enzymatic hydrolysis process can be purified and is useful for several products, for example as a fuel source or other polymeric materials.

[0095] In one embodiment, the solid stream that is subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage contains insoluble compounds such as cellulose and lignin. As described above, the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage preferentially hydrolyzes the celluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars, for example, glucose. The second enzymatic hydrolysis stage produces a sugar rich process stream, which contains the soluble monomeric sugars, and other insoluble components such as lignin, ash and unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and cellulose. The sugar rich process stream is then is then subjected to a solid/liquid separation, such as a filter press, to produce a second solid stream and a second liquid/filtrate stream. The second solid stream, containing lignin, ash and/or other insoluble components such as unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and/or cellulose, is optionally further processed to separate and purify lignin. Accordingly, the lignin is removed from the sugar rich process stream before the sugars are subjected to fermentation. As lignin has been found by the Applicants to inhibit yeast during fermentation, the removal of lignin increases the yield of alcohol as compared to when lignin is present in the fermentation stage.

[0096] In one embodiment, the process further comprises treating the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream to recover enzymes utilized in the second enzymatic hydrolysis process and obtaining a recovered second stage enzyme stream and a first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and step (d) comprises fermenting the enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream. In one embodiment, the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream is treated by at least one membrane separation step to recover enzymes utilized in the second enzymatic hydrolysis process, for example by one or more of ultrafiltration, diafiltration, nanofiltration or reverse osmosis, optionally ultrafiltration. In one embodiment, the recovered second stage enzyme stream is subjected to at least one membrane separation step, for example diafiltration, to obtain an inhibitor reduced recovered enzyme stream and a second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream. In one embodiment, the first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and the second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream comprise monomeric and/or oligomeric sugars.

[0097] In one embodiment, the process further comprises combining the first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and the second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream to obtain a combined enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and subjecting the combined enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream to fermentation.

RECOVERY AND RECYCLING OF ENZYMES

[0098] The applicants have also found that the recovery and recycling of the hemicellulase and cellulase enzymes from the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages is advantageous as the recycling of the enzymes used in one enzymatic hydrolysis stage to the enzymatic hydrolysis other enables more of the enzymes to be utilized thereby increasing the amount of fermentable sugars that may be produced using a given amount of enzymes. As a significant portion of the expense of industrial scale ethanol processes is due to the high cost of the enzymes. Accordingly, the applicants have found that by recovering the enzymes from the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages, and subsequently recycling the enzymes into either the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages, significant cost savings are obtained. It will be understood that the steps recited herein to recover and recycle enzymes may be used in addition to the processes to reduce or remove lignin from the sugar rich process stream.

[0099] Accordingly, in one embodiment, the lignocellulosic feedstock is subjected to a first enzymatic hydrolysis stage to preferentially solubilize xylose and obtain an effluent stream. The effluent stream is then subjected to a second enzymatic stage process to preferentially solubilize cellulose and obtaining a sugar rich process stream. The sugar rich process stream is then treated to reduce or remove the lignin present in the stream to obtain a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream. In one embodiment, at least one of the treated effluent stream and the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream is treated to recover enzymes utilized in at least one of: (i) the first enzymatic hydrolysis process to obtain a first recovered enzyme stream; and (ii) the second enzymatic hydrolysis process to obtain a second recovered enzyme stream, wherein at least some of the first recovered enzyme stream is recycled to the second enzymatic hydrolysis and/or at least some of the second recovered enzyme stream is recycled to the first enzymatic hydrolysis.

[00100] In one embodiment, the treated effluent stream is treated to recover enzymes utilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage and obtain a recovered first stage enzyme stream and an enzyme reduced effluent stream, and wherein the enzyme reduced effluent stream is subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis process. In one embodiment, at least some of the first recovered enzyme stream is recycled to the second enzymatic hydrolysis process. In another embodiment, at least some of the first recovered enzyme stream is recycled to the first enzymatic hydrolysis process. In another embodiment, at least some of the first recovered enzyme stream from the first enzymatic hydrolysis is recycled to the first and second enzymatic hydrolysis processes.

In one embodiment, the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream is treated to recover enzymes utilized in the second enzymatic hydrolysis process whereby a recovered second stage enzyme stream and a first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream are obtained and wherein the enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream is subsequently fermented. In one embodiment, at least some of the second recovered enzyme stream from the second enzymatic hydrolysis is recycled to the first enzymatic hydrolysis processes. In another embodiment, at least some of the second recovered enzyme stream from the second enzymatic hydrolysis is recycled to the second enzymatic hydrolysis process. In another embodiment, at least some of the second recovered enzyme stream from the second enzymatic hydrolysis is recycled to the first and second enzymatic hydrolysis processes. In one embodiment, the recovered second stage enzyme stream is treated to remove inhibitors and obtain a second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and an inhibitor reduced recovered enzyme stream.

[00101 ] The treated effluent stream, the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream and the alcohol stream may be treated using any processes, which are able to separate the hemicellulase and/or cellulase enzymes contained in the streams. In one embodiment, at least one of the treated effluent stream, the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream and the alcohol stream is filtered to obtain the recovered enzyme stream. In one embodiment, at least one of the treated effluent streams, the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream and the alcohol stream is subjected to at least one membrane filtration process. In one embodiment, at least one of the treated effluent stream, the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream and the alcohol stream is subjected to at least one of ultrafiltration and diafiltration. In one embodiment, at least one of the treated effluent stream, the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream and the alcohol stream is sequentially subjected to ultrafiltration and diafiltration. When filtration is utilized to separate the hemicellulase and/or cellulase enzymes from any of the streams, for example ultrafiltration or diafiltration, the enzymes are retained by the filter membrane, while the solution, for example containing monomeric sugars, passes through the filter membrane, allowing for recovery and recycling of the enzymes.

[00102] After the first enzymatic hydrolysis process, the product mixture (effluent stream) will contain soluble monomeric sugars, such as xylan, as well as other insoluble lignocellulosic material that has not been hydrolyzed by the enzymes. In addition, the mixture will also contain the hemicellulase enzymes. Accordingly, in one embodiment, the effluent stream from the first enzymatic hydrolysis process is treated to obtain a monomeric sugar rich stream and a monomeric sugar reduced stream and wherein the monomeric sugar reduced stream (preferably a solid stream - e.g., a filtrate) is subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis process. In one embodiment, the monomeric sugar rich stream is obtained by subjecting the effluent stream to at least one of a decanting centrifuge, a filter press, a belt filter, a hydrocyclone and a vibratory screen. In one embodiment, the monomeric rich sugar stream is treated to recover enzymes utilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis process to obtain a first recovered enzyme stream and an enzyme reduced effluent stream and subsequently recycling at least some of the first recovered enzyme stream to the second enzymatic hydrolysis process. In one embodiment, the enzyme reduced effluent stream is subjected to fermentation.

[00103] As a result of the optional pre-treatment step, such as autohydrolysis, and the first enzymatic hydrolysis process, compounds which inhibit the yeast, which ferment the monomeric sugars, are produced. Such compounds include of acetic acid, formic acid, glycerol, furfural and hydroxymethylfurfural, in addition to the product monomeric sugars themselves (end product inhibition). Accordingly, in one embodiment, the enzyme reduced effluent stream is treated to remove at least one of acetic acid, formic acid, glycerol, furfural and hydroxymethylfurfural.

[00104] In one embodiment, the cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin containing material is subjected to autohydrolysis to obtain the feedstock. In one embodiment, the autohydrolysis has a severity of from 3.6 to 4.5.

[00105] In one embodiment, the cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin containing material is subjected to hydrolysis followed by disc refining to obtain the feedstock for the enzymatic hydrolysis process.

[00106] In one embodiment, the cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin containing material is subjected to hydrolysis to obtain the feedstock.

[00107] It will be understood that the recovery of enzymes, for example, hemicellulase and/or cellulase, can be performed after either, or both, of the first or second enzymatic hydrolysis processes to produce recovered enzyme streams. Likewise, in one embodiment, the first and/or second recovered enzyme streams are recycled to the second and/or first enzymatic hydrolysis processes, respectively. INHIBITORY COMPOUNDS

[00108] As described above, the optional pre-treatment steps, such as autohydrolysis optionally in the presence of sulphuric acid, results in the release of inhibitory compounds, which can inhibit both the enzymatic hydrolysis enzymes, as well as the yeast during the fermentation of the monomeric sugars. In addition, during the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage, acetyl groups are removed from the hemicellulose, which in an aqueous medium form acetic acid. The corresponding drop in pH as a result of the production of acetic acid has an inhibitory effect on the enzymes in the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage, and therefore reduces the monomeric sugar output from this stage. Moreover, products from the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage have a negative feedback (end product inhibition) on enzymes used in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage. Such inhibitory compounds include, but are not limited to, glucose, gluco- oligosaccharides, xylose, xylo-oligosaccharides, formic acid, glycerol furfural, hydroxymethylfurfural, organic acids, and phenolic compounds. Preferably, at least some of these compounds are removed prior to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage. Alternately, or in addition, at least some of these compounds are removed subsequent to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage and prior to fermentation. [00109] In one embodiment therefore, there is an optional process for treating the effluent stream to reduce the level of at least one of the hydrolysis inhibiting compounds and obtaining an inhibitor reduced stream and a treated effluent stream. Subsequently, the inhibitor reduced stream is then subjected to a second enzymatic hydrolysis stage to preferentially hydrolyze and solubilize cellulose to obtain a sugar rich process stream. It will be understood that the steps recited herein to reduce the level of at least one of the hydrolysis inhibiting compounds are used in addition to the processes recited above to reduce or remove lignin. [00110] In one embodiment, the effluent stream is subjected to solid/liquid separation to obtain a liquid stream comprising the inhibitor reduced stream and a solid stream comprising the treated effluent stream. The solid/liquid separation comprises at least one of a decanting centrifuge, a filter press, a belt filter, a vibratory screen and a hydrocyclone.

[00111] In one embodiment, the effluent stream from the first hydrolysis stage is subjected to solid/liquid separation to obtain a liquid/filtrate stream and a solid stream. The solid/liquid separation comprises at least one of a decanting centrifuge, a filter press, a belt filter, a vibratory screen and a hydrocyclone. The first enzymatic hydrolysis stage preferentially hydrolyzes the hemicelluloses in the feedstock to produce monomeric sugars of xylose and glucose. The effluent stream may also contain short oligosaccharides and other higher molecular weight oligosaccharides that have not been fully hydrolyzed in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage. The effluent stream also contains unhydrolyzed cellulose which is preferentially hydrolyzed in the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage. The effluent stream further contains enzyme inhibitors (as described above), such as acetic acid and monomeric sugars (end product inhibition), which are products of the enzymatic hydrolysis (or pre-hydrolysis) and which inhibit the activity of the hemicellulases and cellulases used in the first and/or second enzymatic hydrolysis stages. The solid/liquid separation produces a solid stream and a liquid/filtrate stream. The solid stream contains insoluble solids, such as cellulose, which were not solubilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage. The liquid/filtrate stream, which in an embodiment is a clear filtrate stream, contains any of the soluble compounds that were produced during the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage, such as soluble monomeric sugars, short oligosaccharides and enzyme inhibitors. Accordingly, the enzyme inhibitors are removed from the solid stream before the solid stream is subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage. As such, the removal of inhibitors and monomeric sugars before the solid stream is subjected to the second enzymatic hydrolysis stage increases the sugar output as compared to when the inhibitors are not removed.

NITROGEN SOURCE AND ALKALINE AGENT FOR FERMENTATION [00112] The applicants have found that when the sugar rich process stream is fermented using yeast in the presence of a nitrogen source and an alkaline agent, the process unexpectedly provides a synergistic benefit, which reduces the duration of the fermentation process. As described above, one of the inhibitors from a pre-hydrolysis step, such as autohydrolysis, and/or the first enzymatic hydrolysis stage, is acetic acid, which is produced as a result of the breakdown of acetyl groups attached to the hemicellulose and cellulose. As a result of the acetic acid, which is carried through the solid/liquid separations, the pH of the sugar rich process stream is between about 4.0 and 5.0, optionally 4.0 to 4.6 or optionally 4.5 to 4.9. Without being bound by theory, the applicants believe that acetic acid is easily absorbed by fatty acids present in the cell walls of the yeast during fermentation, which poisons the yeast and causes a significant decrease and/or slow-down in ethanol production. However, upon addition of an alkaline agent, such as an alkali hydroxide or alkaline earth hydroxide, the acetic acid, or other weak acid, is converted to its corresponding acetate ion, which as a result of its non-lipophilic property is not absorbed by the fatty acids of the cell wall, and therefore does not poison the yeast cells. Other weak acids, which are a poison to yeast, may also be present such as lactic acid or succinic acid. Accordingly, preferably, the pH is adjusted to a level at which acetic acid, or another weak acid that may be present, dissociates, or partially dissociates.

[001 13] Accordingly, in one embodiment, the sugar rich process stream obtained from the processes as described above is fermented using yeast in the presence of a nitrogen source and an alkaline agent. In one embodiment, the sugar rich process stream is maintained at an elevated pH of above 3.5, or optionally above 5.5, or optionally 5.5 to 7.0. , in which the pH of the fermentation process in maintained using an alkaline agent, such as calcium hydroxide. At such a level, the weak acid such as acetic acid will dissociate. In one embodiment, the alkaline agent is a combination of calcium hydroxide and/or sodium hydroxide. In another embodiment, the alkaline agent is ammonium hydroxide. Without being bound by theory, it is thought that the alkaline agent, such as calcium hydroxide, reacts with the weak acid, such as acetic acid, to form the salt of the conjugate base of the weak acid (in this case, calcium acetate), which is not very soluble in the fermentation broth. As a result, the salt of the conjugate base (calcium acetate) precipitates from the broth. Accordingly, the weak acid (acetic acid) is not present to poison the yeast. In addition, and without being bound by theory, an alkaline agent such as calcium hydroxide may act as a nutrient source for the yeast, thereby increasing the speed of the fermentation reaction.

[001 14] In one embodiment, the fermentation of the sugar rich process stream is conducted at a pH above 3.5, or optionally above 5.5, or between 5.5 and 7.0, in the presence of sodium hydroxide. In another embodiment, the fermentation of the sugar rich process stream is conducted at above 3.5, or optionally above 5.5, or between 5.5 and 7.0, in the presence of calcium hydroxide. In another embodiment, the fermentation of the sugar rich process stream is conducted at a pH above 3.5, or optionally above 5.5, or between 5.5 and 7.0, in the presence of a calcium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide.

[00115] In one embodiment, the fermentation of the sugar rich process stream is also conducted in the presence of a nitrogen source. In one embodiment, the nitrogen source is urea, a urea derivative, nitrates, or ammonia derivatives, such ammonium hydroxide. Without being bound by theory, it is believed that the nitrogen source acts as a nutrient for the yeast and improves the rate of sugar conversion to alcohol, increasing the rate of the fermentation. An advantage of using urea is that the dissociation of urea in the broth will increase the pH. Accordingly urea may act as a nutrient source to increase the rate of the fermentation and an alkaline or pH adjustment agent.

[00116] In one embodiment, calcium hydroxide is used as the alkaline agent and urea is used as the nitrogen source. Accordingly, in one embodiment, the fermentation of the sugar rich process stream is conducted at an elevated pH above 3.5, or optionally above 5.5, or optionally between 5.5 and 7.0, in which the pH of the fermentation process in raised using calcium hydroxide and also in the presence of urea.

RECOVERY OF ENZYMES FROM FERMENTATION PROCESS

[001 17] The Applicants have also found that hemicellulases and cellulases are recoverable after the fermentation stage (including a simultaneous saccharfication process), and therefore, the micro solid/liquid separations as described above may be conducted after fermentation of the sugar rich process stream. Accordingly, the recovery and recycling of hemicellulase and cellulase enzymes may be used by itself or in combination with any other process or processes disclosed herein.

[00118] In addition, any hemicellulose and/or cellulose which has not been hydrolyzed by the enzymes, such as oligosaccharides or other unhydrolyzed hemicellulose and/or cellulose, may be further hydrolyzed in the fermentation stage, if some enzymes remain as the hemicellulase and cellulase enzymes are still active.

OTHER EMBODIMENTS

[00119] In some embodiments, the sugar rich process stream is used to produce sugar derived products. In one embodiment of the invention, the sugar rich process stream is used to produce alcohol through fermentation. The fermentable sugars such as glucose and xylose may be fermented to alcohol after yeast addition. In an embodiment, the alcohol produced is methanol, ethanol and/or butanol. [00120] It will be appreciated that certain features of the invention, which are, for clarity, described in the context of separate embodiments or separate aspects, may also be provided in combination in a single embodiment. Conversely, various features of the invention, which are, for brevity, described in the context of a single embodiment or aspect, may also be provided separately or in any suitable sub-combination.

[00121 ] Although the invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments thereof, if is evident that many alternatives, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and broad scope of the appended claims. In addition, citation or identification of any reference in this application shall not be construed as an admission that such reference is available as prior art to the present invention.

Claims

A method for treating a lignocellulosic feedstock comprising cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin to produce a sugar rich process stream, the method comprising:
(a) subjecting the feedstock to a first enzymatic hydrolysis process to preferentially solubilize xylose and obtaining an effluent stream;
(b) subjecting the effluent stream to a second enzymatic hydrolysis process to preferentially solubilize cellulose and obtaining a sugar rich process stream;
(c) treating the sugar rich process stream to reduce the level of lignin and obtaining a lignin stream and a lignin reduced sugar rich process stream; and,
(d) fermenting the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream.
The method of claim 1 wherein the sugar rich process stream is treated by solid/liquid separation to obtain the lignin stream and the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream.
The method of claim 2 wherein the solid/liquid separation comprises at least one of a decanting centrifuge, a filter press, a vibratory screen, a hydrocyclone, and a belt filter.
The method of claim 1 wherein step (c) further comprises treating the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream to recover enzymes utilized in the second enzymatic hydrolysis process and obtaining a recovered second stage enzyme stream and a first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and step (d) comprises fermenting the enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream.
5. The method of claim 4 further comprising recycling at least some of the recovered second stage enzyme stream to the first enzymatic hydrolysis process. 6. The method of claim 4 wherein the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream is treated by at least one membrane separation step to recover enzymes utilized in the second enzymatic hydrolysis process.
7. The method of claim 6 wherein the at least one membrane separation step comprises one or more of ultrafiltration, diafiltration, nanofiltration or reverse osmosis.
8. The method of claim 7, wherein the lignin reduced sugar rich process stream is subjected to at least one membrane separation step to obtain the recovered second stage enzyme stream and the first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein the at least one membrane separation step comprises ultrafiltration.
10. The method of claim 8, wherein the recovered second stage enzyme stream is subjected to at least one membrane separation step to obtain an inhibitor reduced recovered enzyme stream and a second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream.
1 1 . The method of claim 10, wherein the at least one membrane separation step comprises diafiltration.
12. The method of claim 0 wherein the first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and the second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream comprise monomeric and/or oligomeric sugars. 13. The method of claim 12, further comprising combining the first enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and the second enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream to obtain a combined enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream and subjecting the combined enzyme reduced sugar rich process stream to fermentation.
14. The method of claim 1 further comprising treating the effluent stream to reduce the level of at least one hydrolysis inhibiting compound and obtaining an inhibitor reduced stream and a treated effluent stream and step (b) comprises subjecting the inhibitor reduced stream to the second enzymatic hydrolysis process.
15. The method of claim 14 wherein the effluent stream is subjected to solid/liquid separation to obtain the treated effluent stream, wherein the treated effluent stream is a liquid stream and the inhibitor reduced stream is a solid stream, wherein the inhibitor reduced stream comprises partially hydrolyzed lignocellulosic feedstock.
16. The method of claim 15 wherein the solid/liquid separation comprises at least one of a decanting centrifuge, a filter press, a vibratory screen, a hydrocyclone, and a belt filter.
17. The method of claim 14 wherein the at least one hydrolysis inhibiting compound comprises at least one of glucose, gluco-oligosaccharides, xylose, xylo-oligosaccharides, furfural, hydroxymethylfurfural, organic acids, soluble lignin and phenolic compounds.
18. The method of claim 17 wherein the at least one hydrolysis inhibiting compound comprises at least one of acetic acid, furfural and hyd roxy m eth y If u rf u ra I .
19. The method of claim 14 further comprising treating the treated effluent stream to recover enzymes utilized in the first enzymatic hydrolysis process and obtaining a recovered first stage enzyme stream and an enzyme reduced effluent stream and recycling at least some of the recovered first stage enzyme stream to the second enzymatic hydrolysis process.
20. The method of claim 14 wherein the treated effluent stream is filtered to obtain the recovered first stage enzyme stream.
21 . The method of claim 20 wherein the treated effluent stream is filtered by subjecting the treated effluent stream to membrane filtration. 22. The method of claim 21 wherein the membrane filtration comprises one or more of ultrafiltration, diafiltration, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis.
23. The method of claim 14 wherein the at least one hydrolysis inhibiting compound comprises monomeric and/or oligomeric sugars and the method further comprises subjecting the treated effluent stream to fermentation.
24. The method of claim 23 further comprising treating the treated effluent stream to remove fermentation inhibitory compounds and then subjecting the inhibitor reduced stream to fermentation.
25. The method of claim 24 wherein the treated effluent stream is treated to remove at least one of acetic acid, furfural, hydroxymethylfurfural, and phenolic compounds.
26. The method of claim 1 further comprising pretreating the lignocellulosic feedstock by subjecting cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin containing material to a preliminary hydrolysis treatment and obtaining the lignocellulosic feedstock.
27. The method of claim 1 further comprising subjecting cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin containing material to pretreatment followed by disc refining and obtaining the feedstock. 28. The method of claim 21 wherein the pretreatment comprises autohydrolysis has a severity of from 3.6 to 4.5.
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