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ZeaChem achieves biorefining results

ZeaChem Inc has achieved fermentation results of acetic acid, an intermediate in the ZeaChem biorefining process.

The biorefineries developer says the results demonstrate successful process scaling to a level that is 10,000 times greater than standard lab scale. Fermentation units were scaled from 0.5 litres to 5000 litres.

ZeaChem of Lakewood, Colorado, USA, says the results come from a collaboration with Hazen Research Inc based in Golden, CO.

Hazen constructed and is hosting the initial front-end process unit, and provides infrastructure and operations support.

Industrial production levels

Jim Imbler, President and CEO of ZeaChem, says: “We now have sufficient evidence, based on mixed sugars, to indicate that our results are scalable to industrial production levels. Our process, using naturally-occurring acetogen bacteria and existing processes, exceeds the commercially viable threshold for fermentation.”


Naturally-occurring acetogens are highly robust and, unlike yeast, produce no CO2 during the fermentation process.

ZeaChem has successfully used acetogens to produce acetic acid at the lab scale in over 1000 fermentation trials using mixed sugars as well as hydrolyzate derived from cellulosic biomass. ZeaChem is now seeking hydrolyzate supply to replicate these scale-up results.

Acetic acid

Acetic acid, the product of ZeaChem’s front-end fermentation unit, is the first step in the hybrid biochemical and thermo-chemical process for creating cellulosic ethanol and bio-based chemicals. The next step will be to concentrate and purify the ZeaChem produced acetic acid into a scalable product, using an energy efficient, non-distillation based process.

ZeaChem intends to scale to a commercial biorefinery upon successful operations at the 250,000 gallon-per-year facility, which is proposed to be built in Boardman, Oregon. The core technology of the facility will begin to come online in 2010.

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