Production of bioalcohols from lignocellosic waste materials produced in the agri-food chain (HOOCH)

Project number
Lead Scientist
Professor Keith W Waldron, Institute of Food Research
ADNAMS Brewers, G.R. Wright and Sons, BioCatalysts Ltd, Pursuit Dynamics plc, Lotus Engineering, Renewables East, Defra (Renewable Materials LINK programme)
Start date
End date
HGCA funding


The problem

There is a growing demand for sustainable energy to address the future limitations in oil, and to address climate change. The most easily produced and exploited biofuel alternatives are biodiesel and bioalcohol, yet UK production of these may potentially clash with the production of food crops. An alternative approach is to exploit the large quantities of lignocellulose waste materials that are created during food production, for example, field straw (cereals, rape), waste food residues (wheat bran, brewers' grain (BSG)) that are produced in large quantities in the food chain. Bioalcohol production from lignocellulose is being developed particularly in the Americas and Europe but there has been relatively little activity in the UK.

Project aims

The British Bioalcohols Group will develop an East-of England Pilot Plant to develop, evaluate and eventually commercialise tailored approaches for converting different sources of food-chain waste lignocellulose into bioalcohols for the automotive and related industries. The focus of the research will be on the disassembly of lignocellulosic residues from cereal and oil-seed crops for example from field-derived straw, and processing-derived grain residues (bran and brewers' grain). 


To quantify and chemically characterise lignocellulose relevant to bioalcohol production from currently-available UK crops. This will include straw from commercially available varieties of cereals (wheat, barley and oats) and oilseed rape, brewers spent grain and waste wheat bran. To develop approaches to release the potentially fermentable carbohydrate from the cell walls of the lignocellulose. To develop unitary and compartmentalised fermentation using a range of specific micro-organisms and formats of presentation to optimise the conversion of lignocellulose-derived hexoses and pentoses to a range of bioalcohols. To integrate (vertically) with the national industrial community to ensure the rapid translation of invention to technology and market exploitation.

Benefits to the industry

The exploitation of these lignocellulose-rich waste streams will provide added value to the cereals and oilseed industries and will augment food production. There could be improved land use with land that can not sufficiently support crops for food becoming economically viable with multiple products. There is the potential to produce biomass for fuels without increasing the use of fertilisers, pesticides and other agronomic inputs (already used in food production). Additionally, there is a significant imperative to reduce the ecological impact of climate change, with carbon capture by bioalcohols being seen as one significant and practicable route to doing this.

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