DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) 2023 Project Peer Review: WBS Bench Scale Research & Development

Research output: NRELPresentation


Bench Scale Integration develops and optimizes fermentation processes to produce bio-based fuels and chemicals for commercial scale-up. The project uses fermentation science to achieve high titers and production rates by, for example, manipulating how the microorganisms are fed biomass sugars and nutrients, modifying fermentation conditions (pH, temperature, aeration) or developing online control strategies for better fermentation operations and high titer, rates, and yield (TRY). For this period of performance, we continued our development of a commercial-ready 2,3-butanediol (BDO) fermentation from biomass sugars utilizing NREL's proprietary Zymomonas mobilis microorganism. The engineered Z. mobilis can use all the main sugars in corn stover biomass, which are glucose, xylose, and arabinose. BDO is a versatile, low-carbon chemical which can be catalytically upgraded to a variety of hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals. The project had three goals during this review period; evaluate the technical feasibility of using whole slurry pretreated corn stover to achieve the techno-economic analysis (TEA) performance goals, continue optimizing a liquor-based fed-batch fermentation process for high titer, and develop strategies to enable scale-up. After evaluating different iterations of a whole slurry fermentation that did not meet the TEA goals, a Go/No-Go decision was made to pivot to liquor-only with new TEA performance targets, the main one being 140 g/L titer. We successfully met this goal, producing 141 g/L BDO at 1 g/L-hr productivity and 84% process yield. This titer and productivity attracted industrial interest to scale the fermentation resulting in a Technology Commercialization Fund project award in 2022. We used an NREL developed near-infra red (NIR) spectroscopy method for rapid analysis which allowed for changes to aeration levels and sugar feeding during the fermentation to maximize BDO production. The NIR analysis can be done using a hand-held spectrometer, essentially taking the analysis on to the plant floor during scale-up and preliminary work shows the feasibility of using an online probe for continuous monitoring and control. The other scale-up tool is mapping oxygen transfer coefficient (kLa) and oxygen transfer rate (OTR) in various vessels to find conditions that match the optimized 500 mL vessels. Showing a correlation to the mapping work, which is done with water and a dissolved oxygen probe, can reduce the risk of failed fermentations during scale-up. Our end-of-project goal is to meet the design target BDO titer (140-150 g/L) from DMR corn stover liquor at 1000L or larger scale to demonstrate BDO process design case and transfer the technology to industrial fermentation stakeholders for commercialization.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2023 U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Project Peer Review, 3-7 April 2023, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2700-85574


  • 2 3-butanediol
  • biomass sugars
  • fed-batch fermentation
  • near infra-red spectroscopy
  • oxygen transfer rate
  • Zymomonas mobilis


Dive into the research topics of 'DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) 2023 Project Peer Review: WBS Bench Scale Research & Development'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this