Sugar to Polyols Process

The IPCI Biomass Sugar to Polyols process incorporates four key technologies: pretreatment, hydrogenation, hydrogenolysis and separations. Several variations of the process are available to suit the particular feedstock and desired end product.

Figure 1: Overview of Biomass Sugar to Polyols Process


  1. IPCI PRETREATMENT – Clean sugars from biomass

    IPCI pretreatment technology can purify sugars from a variety of sources, removing contaminants of concern from sugars derived from feedstocks as varied as:

    • Cane, beet and corn sugars, juices and molasses
    • Cellulosic sugars derived from straw, bagasse, corn stover, energy crops, wood chips and other agriculture or ethanol production residues
    • Pulping liquors derived from sulfite, pre-hydrolyzed Kraft or straw pulping processes
    • Crude glycerin produced as a byproduct of biodiesel or other biofuel processes
    • IPCI targets contaminants such as color, organic materials, ash and lignin with a range of separations technologies tailored to the individual feedstocks
  2. HYDROGENATION – Sugars to Sugar Alcohols (Alditols)A variety of methods have been developed for the conversion of sugars to sugar alcohols, including treatment with sodium amalgam, enzymatic conversions, fermentation, electrolytic reduction and catalytic hydrogenation.  Thermal catalytic hydrogenation is, by far, the technology most widely used for sugar alcohol production.IPCI’s hydrogenation process to produce sorbitol or other sugar alcohols is characterized by a continuous thermal catalytic hydrotreating process using a robust, high activity, supported nickel catalyst. Glucose, fructose, xylose or any other sugar species can be utilized to produce sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and other sugar alcohols using flexible reactor system designs depending on feedstock that provides high conversion and yield.
  3. IPCI HYDROGENOLYSIS – Sugar Alcohols (Alditols) to GlycolsHydrogenolysis is a term describing chemical reactions in which hydrogen is used to break molecular bonds in larger organic molecules to provide smaller, higher value or more useful molecules.Using a similar continuous thermal catalytic hydrotreating process as in hydrogenation, hydrogenolysis produces propylene gycol, ethylene glycol, glycerin and butanediols from sugar alcohols (alditols). As with hydrogenation, IPCI’s hydrogenolysis can also adjust for product slate and feedstock using either single or multiple component sugar alcohols.IPCI hydrogenolysis technology is the only process for the production of glycols from sugar alcohols that has been commercialized.
  4. IPCI Separations – Pure PolyolsThe separation system isolates the individual polyol products and separates selected byproducts.  IPCI has developed distillation, azeotropic distillation and other separation technologies to produce industrial and UHP-grade products.