Fumaric acid is a chemical building block with many applications, namely in the polymer industry. The fermentative production of fumaric acid from renewable feedstock is a promising and sustainable alternative to petroleum-based chemical synthesis. The use of existing industrial side-streams as raw-materials within biorefineries potentially enables production costs competitive against current chemical processes, while preventing the use of refined sugars competing with food and feed uses and avoiding purposely grown crops requiring large areas of arable land. However, most industrial side streams contain a diversity of molecules that will add complexity to the purification of fumaric acid from the fermentation broth. A process for the recovery and purification of fumaric acid from a complex fermentation medium containing spent sulfite liquor (SSL) as a carbon source was developed and is herein described. A simple two-stage precipitation procedure, involving separation unit operations, pH and temperature manipulation and polishing through the removal of contaminants with activated carbon, allowed for the recovery of fumaric acid with 68.3% recovery yield with specifications meeting the requirements of the polymer industry. Further, process integration opportunities were implemented that allowed minimizing the generation of waste streams containing fumaric acid, which enabled increasing the yield to 81.4% while keeping the product specifications.
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