Eran BANIEL & Aharon EYAL

HCl Conversion of Cellulose to Sugar


Innovative HCL Recovery Process Revolutionizes the 1930 Bergius Technology for Converting Cellulosic Materials into Fermentable Sugars - Enabling Ethanol for Less Than US$1/Gallon

TEL-AVIV, Israel, June 11 /PRNewswire/ -- HCL CleanTech (, an Israeli company co founded by Prof. Avram Baniel and Prof. Ari Eyal has developed a proprietary full HCL recovery process, which makes an old, industrially-proven German Cellulosic to fermentable sugars and Ethanol process economically very attractive. The new technology can also "clean" and improve other HCL dependant industries. Modern Chemical technology makes the implementation straightforward and immediate.

The study and development of chemical processes which use acids for the conversion of Lignocellulosic material (biomass) to fermentable sugars and ethanol have been going on for about a century. The main reason none of them have been economically viable is that in most of them yields are low due to the formation of useless by-products at a significant percentage of the desired sugars. There is however one particular process that provides near 100% conversion to constituent sugars and that has been fully proven through years of operation on a large industrial scale. The only reason that this excellent process (usually named Bergius after its Nobel Prize winning developer) was used extensively only during World War II period were the high operating costs. The use of fuming acid (HCL gas) in the Bergius process ensures high yields, but the costs of recovery and reconcentration of the HCL has made the process costs too high for economic viability - until now.

HCL-CleanTech proprietary technology changes this Lignocellulosics to Ethanol process and makes it economically attractive by dramatically reducing the most costly part of the process. Recovering HCl in gaseous form directly from its solutions, by means of the HCL-CleanTech proprietary process provides for drastic costs reduction while preserving the high yields of the industrially proven Bergius cold hydrolysis.

This concept allows for a large variety of feedstock, requires very little water and is virtually self sufficient energetically. Calculations done by a US Chemical Engineering company in a study for HCL CleanTech indicate that costs per 1 gallon of Ethanol manufactured using this concept will be below $1 (US).

HCL CleanTech's technology for the recovery of HCl from aqueous solutions and industrial processes based on the core technology can provide complete acid recovery solutions to HCL dependent industries (such as the PVC industry). This would not only significantly reduce operating costs, but would make those industries far more environmentally friendly.

About HCL CleanTech Ltd.

Incorporated in December 2007, HCL CleanTech is a technology licensing company co-founded by 2 of Israel's most prominent Industrial Chemical Research scientists. Prof. Avraham Baniel (over 35 years Applied R&D and Management of IMI - Israel Mining Institute - and teaching at the Casali Institute of the Hebrew University) and Prof. Ari Eyal (Prof. of applied Chemistry at the Hebrew University, senior advisor to many firms worldwide). HCL CleanTech is about to start its first round of institutional investment.

Chemical & Engineering News

HCL Cleantech Wins Venture Funding

 Israeli start-up touts process for using hydrochloric acid to make cheap sugar from cellulose

Biofuels start-up HCL Cleantech has received a first infusion of venture capital funding from Burrill & Co. and Khosla Ventures, two big names in clean energy investing. HCL, based in Tel-Aviv, Israel, has revived a World War II-era process for converting cellulosic feedstocks to sugar, a potential biofuel feedstock, using concentrated hydrochloric acid.

HCL Cleantech was founded in December 2007 to commercialize technology adapted from an invention by Nobel Prize-winning German chemist Friedrich Bergius. The Bergius process was used in Germany during World War II when the country suffered from a shortage of fuel and sugar. But difficulties in recovering the concentrated hydrochloric acid made the process too expensive to commercialize.

HCL CEO Eran Baniel says his company has figured out how to completely recover 42% hydrochloric acid through solvent extraction. Baniel claims that using the acid makes for a simple and low-cost conversion to sugar compared to other methods such as enzyme-based degradation. He says the technology can hydrolyze a wide variety of cellulosic feedstocks without drying or pretreatment, uses little water or energy, and produces high sugar yields with fewer unwanted byproducts.

Initially, Baniel says, the company planned to go into ethanol production, but "we promptly realized we have little to contribute to fermentation technology. We'll go as far as we can to be the best at producing low cost sugars, and we’ll find enough partners in the U.S. who can go from sugar to any end product."

Some of those partners may be other Khosla-backed ventures in the renewable fuels sector, such as Amyris, LS9, and Gevo.

Peter J. Reilly, professor of engineering at Iowa State University's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering points out that most cellulosic biofuels firms use sulfuric acid because its cheap, or enzymes because they can be engineered for high yields. He says he is intrigued by HCL's Cleantech’s process. "The use of solvent to recycle hydrochloric acid is interesting—that's the key part of this story." Reilly says that one possible problem with using hydrochloric acid would be corrosion in the production vessels, though the company may resort to using glass-lined tanks.

HCL did not disclose the amount of funding it has received, but the company plans to invest the money in a pilot plant in North Carolina that will go on-line by the end of 2010. The plant will take in 1.25 tons per day of cellulosic feedstock.






Abstract -- The invention provides a process for the recovery of HCI from a dilute solution thereof, comprising: a) bringing a dilute aqueous HCI solution into contact with a substantially immiscible extractant, said extractant comprising: 1) an oil soluble amine which amine is substantially water insoluble both in free and in salt form; 2) an oil soluble organic acid which acid is substantially water insoluble both in free and in salt form; and 3) a solvent for the amine and organic acid; whereupon HCI selectively transfers to said extractant to form an HCI-carrying extractant; and b) treating said HCI-carrying extractant to obtain gaseous HCI.

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