Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Vol.137, 267-280, 2007
An evaluation of British Columbian beetle-killed hybrid spruce for bioethanol production
The development of bioconversion technologies for production of fuels, chemicals, and power from renewable resources is currently a high priority for developed nations such as the United States, Canada, and the European Union as a way to improve national energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The widespread implementation of such technologies will require a sustainable supply of biomass from forestry and agriculture. Forests are a major source of feedstocks for biofuels production in Canada. Woody biomass includes residues from logging and forest thinning, and from wood processing and pulp production. More recently, damaged wood caused by beetle infestations has become available on a large scale in Western Canada. This study evaluates beetle-killed British Columbian hybrid spruce (HS) (Picea glauca x P. engelmannii) as a feedstock for the production of bioethanol. In the past 30 yr, attack by the beetle Dendroctonus rufipennis and associated fungi has resulted in estimated losses of more than three billion board feet in British Columbia alone. Here we describe the chemical and some physical characteristics of both healthy (HHS) and beetle-killed (BKHS) British Columbian HS and evaluate the technical feasibility of using these feedstocks as a source of biomass for bioethanol production. Untreated HHS and BKHS did not differ significantly in chemical composition except for the moisture content, which was significantly lower in BKHS (approx 10%) compared with HHS (approx 18%). However, the yields of carbohydrates in hydrolyzable and fermentable forms were higher at mild pretreatment conditions (H-Factor < 1000) for BKHS compared with HHS. At medium (H-Factor 1000-2000) and severe (H-Factor > 2000) pretreatment conditions HHS and BKHS behaved similarly. Organosolv pretreated HHS and BKHS demonstrated good ethanol theoretical yields, approx 70 and 80%, respectively.