Environmental comparison of biobased chemicals from glutamic acid with their petrochemical equivalents

  • Lammens T
  • Potting J
  • Sanders J
 et al. 
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Glutamic acid is an important constituent of waste streams from biofuels production. It is an interesting starting material for the synthesis of biobased chemicals, thereby decreasing the dependency on fossil fuels. The objective of this paper was to compare the environmental impact of four biobased chemicals from glutamic acid with their petrochemical equivalents, that is, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), N-vinylpyrrolidone (NVP), acrylonitrile (ACN), and succinonitrile (SCN). A consequential life cycle assessment was performed, wherein glutamic acid was obtained from sugar beet vinasse. The removed glutamic acid was substituted with cane molasses and ureum. The comparison between the four biobased and petrochemical products showed that for NMP and NVP the biobased version had less impact on the environment, while for ACN and SCN the petrochemical version had less impact on the environment. For the latter two an optimized scenario was computed, which showed that the process for SCN can be improved to a level at which it can compete with the petrochemical process. For biobased ACN large improvements are required to make it competitive with its petrochemical equivalent. The results of this LCA and the research preceding it also show that glutamic acid can be a building block for a variety of molecules that are currently produced from petrochemical resources. Currently, most methods to produce biobased products are biotechnological processes based on sugar, but this paper demonstrates that the use of amino acids from low-value byproducts can certainly be a method as well.

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  • Tijs M. Lammens

  • José Potting

  • Johan P M Sanders

  • Imke J M De Boer

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