4-Hydroxybenzoic acid from hydrothermal pretreatment of oil palm empty fruit bunches - Its origin and influence on biomass conversion

Helena Rasmussen, Kit H. Mogensen, Martin D. Jeppesen, Hanne R. Sorensen, Anne S. Meyer

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An unknown major compound, characteristically occurring during processing of oil palm empty fruit bunches was identified with LC-DAD-ESI-MS/MS to be 4-hydroxybenzoic acid. Lignin from oil palm empty fruit bunches contains 4-hydroxybenzoic acid so a tempting conclusion was that the 4-hydroxybenzoic acid originated from lignin. However, another hypothesis to its origin was also tested. The route considered involves degradation of rhamnose to 5-methylfuran-2-carbaldehyde followed by reaction with formic acid. Experimental hydrothermal pretreatment of pure rhamnose in the presence of formic acid revealed that 5-methylfuran-2-carbaldehyde is in fact a degradation product from rhamnose, analogous to glucose degradation to 5-(hydroxymethyl)-2-furaldehyde. However, the subsequent step of carboxylation with formic acid to form 4-hydroxybenzoic acid was found not to take place in practice at realistic biomass hydrothermal pretreatment conditions. 5-methylfuran-2-carbaldehyde only differs from furfural by having an extra methyl group and the degradation route indicates that it may be a new important degradation compound to consider in other biomass feedstocks rich in deoxysugars such as rhamnose or fucose, e.g. pectin rich biomasses. Assessment of the influence of 4-hydroxybenzoic acid in the enzymatic hydrolysis of pretreated oil palm empty fruit bunches as well as its presence during fermentation showed that 4-hydroxybenzoic acid is not inhibiting or mediating neither on the enzymatic hydrolysis or fermentation in the quantified range from 0.1 g/L to 1 g/L, indicating an option for reaping the 4-hydroxybenzoic acid from the biomass liquor directly after hydrothermal pretreatment for biorefinery value-addition. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiomass & Bioenergy
Pages (from-to)209-216
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Lignin
  • 5-Methylfuran-2-carbaldehyde
  • Reaction mechanism
  • Degradation compound
  • Pectin


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