Upgrading Lignocellulosic Products to Drop-In Biofuels via Dehydrogenative Cross-Coupling and Hydrodeoxygenation Sequence
Life-cycle analysis (LCA) allows the scientific community to identify the sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of novel routes to produce renewable fuels. Herein, we integrate LCA into our investigations of a new route to produce drop-in diesel/jet fuel by combining furfural, obtained from the catalytic dehydration of lignocellulosic pentose sugars, with alcohols that can be derived from a variety of bio- or petroleum-based feedstocks. As a key innovation, we developed recyclable transition-metal-free hydrotalcite catalysts to promote the dehydrogenative cross-coupling reaction of furfural and alcohols to give high molecular weight adducts via a transfer hydrogenation–aldol condensation pathway. Subsequent hydrodeoxygenation of adducts over Pt/NbOPO4 yields alkanes. Implemented in a Brazilian sugarcane biorefinery such a process could result in a 53–79 % reduction in life-cycle GHG emissions relative to conventional petroleum fuels and provide a sustainable source of low carbon diesel/jet fuel.