Proteins for Functionalized Chemicals

Protein is present in all plant matter from less than 5% to over 20% in some variants at a particular stage during the growth phase. Proteins are comprised of hundreds to thousands of interlinked amino acids. Figure 12.8 displays the traditional petrochemical route for a high-volume nitrogen-based functionalized chemical product vs. the potential biochemical route. The amino acids, arginine, which can be extracted from nearly any protein source, is used to highlight the potential of upholding the biochemical structure. Methane and propylene act as the carbon source with ammonia supplying chemical energy for nitrogen functionality in the existing industry. Classified as a bulk chemical commodity precursor, the production of 1,4-butanediamine is associated with a high CED of 114.7 GJ ton-1 and high emissions of 8.1 tonCO2eqton-1. By employing enzymatic and a mild acidic/hydrolysis treatment, the protein-derived arginine can be directly synthesized into urea and 1,4-butanediamine. Urea is also a high volume nitrogen containing chemical with an associated CED of 50.3 GJ ton-1 and emissions of3.6 CO2eqton-1. In addition to the low process intensity involved in this biochemical route, as an additional portion of the biomass feedstock is being used meaning the agricultural energy intensity (as mentioned above) will also be reduced.

Petrochemical Route h2c=chch3



Air h2c=chcn


CH4 + NH3 Methane Ammonia

HCN Cyanide

H2NCH2CH2CH2CH2NH2 1,4-Butanediamine

Biochemical Route


Decarboxylation Arginine Hydrolyzation

-> CO2 + H2O + CH4N2O+H2NCH2CH2CH2CH2NH2 Dioxide Water Urea 1,4-Butanediamine

Figure 12.8 Chemical and biochemical process routes for nitrogen functionality. Adapted from Ref [35].

12.5 Determination of CO2 Emissions in Processes of Chemical Industry | 439

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