Production of ferulic acid, 2,3 Butanediole and microbial plant biostimulants from lignocellulosic biomass by a two-step cascading process


The DEBUT project aims to develop a small biorefinery process, with two steps: 1) biomass pre-treatment with natural deep eutectic solvents (NADES) and feruloyl-esterase (FAE); and 2) one pot production of a versatile chemical, 2,3 butanediol (2,3-BD), from NADES-FAE pre-treated lignocellulose biomass, by simultaneous saccarification and fermentation (SSF), performed by a plant biostimulant microbial consortia.

The main biochemicals resulting from the biorefinery process are ferulic acid and 2,3-BD. Ferulic acids address mainly health and wellness related industries, whilst 2,3-BD is a versatile chemical, with a fast-growing market. The proposed biorefinery process produces also agricultural inputs such as lignin, recovered minerals and microbial plant biostimulants.

A first project novelty is related to the use of a plant biostimulants microbial consortium for simultaneous saccarification and  fermentation of cellulosic material. According to our knowledge such approach was not yet done. On such process there are not by-products – recalcitrant pre-treated cellulosic material, not converted to 2-3 BD, together with embedded microbial biostimulants biomass, is a useful agricultural input - a microbial plant biostimulant.

Another innovative approach is related to the generation of in-situ secondary DES from the ferulic acid (as HBD) and either components of the initial DES or other components (as HBA) which would provide easier separation of the extracted FA from lignocellulose and impurities.

This new, in-situ generated DES should enhance the FAE activity due to equilibrium shifting because of product consumption. Process up-scale to TRL5 is innovative, through the adaptation of the already known equipment to newly developed technology. For NADES-FAE extraction we proposed to use the continuous operated reconfigurable columns systems, used for decades for various type of extraction (e.g. for extraction of soluble from coffee).

For SSF with microbial plant biostimulant consortium we proposed the used of vacuum operated ploughshare mixer. This approach will ensure not only a better recovery of volatile 2,3 BD, but also a higher specificity of the fermentation medium, due to micro-aerobic conditions.

The DEBUT project proposes a new approach of small scale biorefinery, compatible with a farm facility, which valorise agricultural side streams, with recovery of minerals and lignin (main precursor of soil organic matter) for agricultural use and production of an innovative agricultural input, a microbial plant  biostimulant.

The project proposes a biotechnological two step cascading process, which converts excess lignocellulosic biomass into biochemicals (ferulic acid, 2,3 B-D), with added-value and fast-growing market. The main innovative solutions, NADES and microbial plant biostimulant, are investigated for their potential adverse effects by a battery of state-of-the art techniques, to ensure that they do not affect natural ecosystem productivity.


Dr. Florin Oancea

National Institute for Research & Development in Chemistry and Petrochemistry - ICECHIM, Romania


Project partners:

National Institute for Research & Development in Chemistry and Petrochemistry - ICECHIM, Romania

Norgenotech AS, Norway

Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Norway