The sustainability of glucose production from two different feedstocks, maize starch (MS) and woody biomass residues (WBR), was evaluated by means of life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. The aim of this work was to compare the environmental performance of conventional technology (glucose from MS by enzymatic hydrolysis) with a novel alternative (glucose from WBR by a three-step process: pretreatment -crushing, deacetylation, and diluted-acid treatment-; conditioning -acid-alkali-acid treatment-; and enzymatic hydrolysis), which is specifically oriented towards the circular economy context. Life cycle inventory was completed by simulation of the different processes, followed by integration of the mass and energy inputs and outputs in an LCA software (GaBi 7.3). LCA results evidenced benefits in all the evaluated environmental impacts when using WBR as a glucose source alternative. Environmental damages associated with the starch production process, which involves more than 60% of the impacts calculated for glucose production from maize starch, has been detected as the key step in which focusing the improvement efforts for this process. On the other hand, pretreating of the biomass residues was the most contributing stage in the WBR process, principally due to the large heat and electricity requirements associated with this stage. Finally, we concluded that the WBR process proposed here might be considered as a valuable alternative in sustainability terms for the production of glucose within the biorefinery concept. Likewise, we have identified the critical points that should be considered to further improve this technology.
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