28 Feb 2020

Södra first in the world with fossil-free biomethanol

Södra, Sweden’s largest forest-owner association, decided to invest in a biomethanol production facility in 2017, helping them move towards a circular economy, resource-efficiency and being fossil-fuel free. This is a great example of what the Rehap project is also trying to achieve in strengthening the European bio-economy industry.

Södra has built the world’s first plant for commercial biomethanol, a sustainable fuel from forest biomass, at Södra’s pulp mill in Mönsterås. Over the next few days, a first pilot delivery will go to Emmelev A/S, a customer that will be using biomethanol in its biodiesel production.

“It is with pride that we have now started up the first commercial plant in the world for biomethanol. The transition to a bioeconomy means that all raw materials must be used efficiently. Biomethanol is produced from the crude methanol recovered from the manufacturing process at Södra’s pulp mills. It is part of the circular process that already exists in Södra’s mills, in which all parts of forest products are used for the best possible effect. With this step, we are showing the way to a fossil-free society, and it is fully in line with our own strategy for fossil-free transportation by 2030,” said Henrik Brodin, Strategic Business Development Manager at Södra.

The investment is also broadening Södra’s product portfolio with a new bioproduct.

“More and more people are realising why we need to switch to fossil-free alternatives. That’s why it feels so great that we can bring biomethanol to the market as a substitute for fossil methanol in the transport sector as well as a chemical base. Demand for bio-based products is favourable and we have long experience in delivering other bioproducts to the fuel and chemical industries. As we now continue to build on that, it feels particularly gratifying to have made a first pilot delivery to our customer Emmelev A/S. We are now looking forward to continuing the development of the product together with our customers,” said Viktor Odenbrink, Sales Manager at Södra Cell Bioproducts.

Emmelev A/S is a Danish family-owned agricultural company that has developed large-scale biodiesel production from local canola, but uses fossil methanol as a raw material in production.

“Biodiesel will play a key role in the transition to a fossil-free Denmark and we are very happy that Swedish biomethanol will now be used in production. Our biodiesel will be 100% renewable and based on locally sourced raw materials. Biodiesel produced from Danish canola and Swedish forests can secure fuel supplies for heavy road transport, as well as buses and construction machinery. This will be crucial for a transformation of the energy sector. We emphasise local and regional production and consider Sweden part of our local area, and we have good relationships with Swedish companies. It therefore feels natural to be entering into an agreement with Södra,” said Morten Simonsen, co-owner of Emmelev A/S.

13 Feb 2020

Rehap to hold workshop at EUBCE

Rehap will be holding a workshop in April at the 28th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition (EUBCE) in Marseille.

EUBCE has grown from a small research community biomass conference more than 30 years ago into a well-established international conference, tackling challenges ranging from biomass growth and biomass conversion to bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts, sustainability and policies, and to provide a forum for industrial implementation of technologies enabling the transition away from fossil fuels economies.

The 28th EUBCE will expand its portfolio from energy related biomass production and conversion of bio-based feedstock to other sectors of the economy and will now integrate the bioeconomy into its conference programme.

Rehap’s workshop at the event will focus on the revalorization of biomass, and will discuss valuable information from the project about the processes involved in obtaining the intermediates, the developments and innovation in producing bioproducts and the integration of these products in exciting new bio-based materials.

If completed in time, there will also be discussion about the LCA/LCC of a “virtual biorefinery” integrating all of the REHAP processes. This is a very novel development by REHAP and, if finished on time for April, will be presented at the workshop.

 

 

 

27 Jan 2020

A sustainable alternative to crude oil

One of the main objectives of Rehap is to develop new methods for turning natural waste products into sustainable polyurethanes. A research team from the Fraunhofer Society and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) led by chemist Volker Sieber has been carrying out similar work, developing a new polyamide family which can be produced from a byproduct of cellulose production.

Polyamides are important plastics. They can be found in ski bindings and in cars or items of clothing. Commercially, they have been made predominantly from crude oil up until now; there are just a few “green” alternatives, such as polyamides based on castor oil.

Bio-based compounds are often significantly more expensive to produce and have therefore only been able to penetrate the market before now if they have had particular properties.

A team led by Volker Sieber, Professor of the Chemistry of Biogenic Raw Materials at TU Munich, has now developed a completely new polyamide family which can be produced from a byproduct of cellulose production.

New polyamide family

The biogenic starting material, (+)-3-carene, is made up of two rings which are fused to one another. The chemists at the TUM and the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) in Straubing have now modified one of the rings in such a way that it can be opened up, yielding a long chain of molecules, a polymer.

The second ring remains intact here. In this way, instead of a linear polymer chain like in traditional polyamides, a chain which bears many small rings and other side groups emerges. This gives the polymer completely new functions.

Special properties

The new polyamides impress thanks to their special properties which make them attractive for many applications. For example, they melt at higher temperatures than the competing crude oil derived products. In addition, the new compounds can be produced transparently as well as in a partially crystalline manner, which increases its later application possibilities using the same starting substance.

“By way of reaction conditions and catalysts during synthesis, we can easily control whether we will obtain a transparent or partially crystalline polyamide in the end,” explains Sieber. “However, the basis for this is offered above all by the specific structure of the bio-based starting material which would be very expensive to obtain from fossil raw materials.”

Increasing sustainability

From an industrial point of view, it is important that the synthesis basically takes place in one reaction container. This “one-pot” process would not just allow a significant reduction in costs, but would also mean a clear increase in sustainability, according to Sieber.

The biogenic starting material (+)-3-carene can actually be distilled at a high purity and comparatively low cost from the turpentine oil produced as a secondary product in the cellulose industry.

Up until now, the turpentine oil was only heated in the cellulose factories. “We use it as a vital starting material for plastics,” says Sieber. “This is an enormous increase in value.”

No competition with food production

Sieber points out that with turpentine oil being a side product of the forest industry, in contrary to the use of castor oil, we are not competing against food production. The researchers are not yet completely satisfied with the achieved overall yield of the process, this is at 25 percent by mass.

“Thanks to the simple scalability, the potential for an efficient process is very high,” says Paul Stockmann, whose doctoral thesis at the TUM is based on the findings. At the Fraunhofer IGB, the chemist is now working on establishing (+)-3-carene-based polyamides on the market as alternatives to crude-oil-based high-performance polyamides.

14 Aug 2019

AgriMax: Turning food and crop waste into new products

Every year, around one-third of all food produced across the world is wasted before it even reaches the consumer. The team of the BBI JU’s project, AgriMax, is tackling the problem by turning crop and food-processing waste into high-value products.

Every year in Europe alone, around 90 million tonnes of food and 700 million tonnes of crop go to waste. The UN reports that the market value of lost or wasted food products across the world as a whole is approximately USD 936 billion. In addition, this waste of resources is responsible for 8 % of all annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

The BBI JU’s AgriMax project is addressing the issue by using this waste to produce new bio-based compounds for the chemicals, food packaging and agricultural sectors. The compounds could end up being used in the manufacture of a variety of products, including bio-composite packaging for food, natural additives for food ingredients, and agricultural products such as fertilisers and biodegradable mulching pots.

‘We will be working closely with end-users to test the quality and performance of any new products, and any remaining biomass will be used for biogas or returned to the land for soil enrichment,’ explains project coordinator Albert Torres from IRIS Technology Solutions, Spain. ‘Our aim is for AgriMax to become a flagship for the circular economy, where waste finds new applications in the sector that produced it, closing loops between primary production and reuse.’

Building biorefineries

To develop its new compounds, the project team is building two pilot plants to process different types of waste. The first biorefinery is at a family-run farm in northern Italy and is almost ready to start processing waste from tomatoes and cereals. It will produce lycopene, ferulic acid, cutin and hydro-compost. The other refinery is being built at the facilities of a fruit producer in southern Spain. It will process olive and potato waste to produce polyphenols, fibres, protein and aromas.

A variety of processing technologies will be used to find the best solution for each type of waste, including ultrasound extraction, filtration and enzyme treatments. Great care is taken to ensure the supply of waste material heading to the plants is properly coordinated and managed.

‘The pilot plants are designed to accept multiple feedstocks, and an online stakeholder platform will coordinate the provision of waste from producers across each region,’ says Torres. ‘This will help us deal with seasonal and regional fluctuations in production so we can make the most of the biorefineries throughout the year, thereby maximising their efficiency and profitability.’

Business models

The project is committed to developing a model for the use of waste that is viable in the long term, not just technically but also from a business point of view. It will rigorously assess the environmental and ethical issues relating to its production pathways, including all safety and regulatory implications. This work includes assessing the effect of new bio-based fertilisers on soil health.

Moreover, the AgriMax team is working on producing business strategies for the commercialisation of any new products it creates. The goal is to ensure sustainability of production and to secure regular incomes for those supplying the biorefineries, including local farmers and horticultural businesses.

The project is also investigating whether these plants could be run by agricultural cooperatives, creating an economically and environmentally sustainable model that could be emulated by others across Europe.

This project is funded under Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) initiative, a public-private partnership aiming at the development of the bio-based industries sector in Europe.

See also

Project website
Project details

29 Jul 2019

New fibre-based ready meal trays from Huhtamaki to replace black plastic

Waitrose & Partners has launched its Italian ready-meal range in a new fibre-based tray suited for both microwave and regular ovens. The new trays, called Fresh, are manufactured by the global food packaging specialist Huhtamaki, and the fibre used as the base material comes from the Swedish forest company Södra. The trays can be recycled, and they are also certified for home composting.

A high-end retailer, a premium food manufacturer, an innovative fibre material producer and a food packaging specialist have joined forces to find a plastic-replacing, sustainable solution for ready meal trays used in significant quantities every day.

Waitrose & Partners has launched its Italian ready-meal range in a new fibre-based tray suited for both microwave and regular ovens.

“We have made a commitment to move out of black plastic by the end of 2019”, says Nikki Grainge, Packaging Development Manager from Waitrose & Partners in the UK.

“We have been testing the new trays since May 2018 and have received very positive feedback from our customers”, Grainge continues. “Now, with the current launch of the Italian range using the new tray, we’ll be able to move nearly 9 million meals out of black plastic.”

Fresh trays are made from natural materials and the fibre comes from certified, sustainable Nordic forests. This means that per every tree cut down, three more trees are planted.

“The project started already in 2016 with the aim to find alternative food packaging for trays made from black plastic, most often CPET. The reason to avoid this material is not only its fossil origin but also because it is problematic to recycle due to the detection systems used in end-of-life material separation”, says Steve Davey, Project Manager from Huhtamaki.

An important accelerator was the EU’s Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking program for research and innovation, securing the initial funding and helping build the core team. The team wanted to spearhead the new concept in the UK, which is one of the most significant markets for ready meals in Europe.

Fresh and innovative ideas

“Demand for sustainable alternatives is increasing from both manufacturers and customers. For Södra, the collaboration in Fresh project offers an opportunity to learn more about how we can use our bio-based raw materials as an alternative to fossil packaging in such an important area of use as food packaging”, says Catrin Gustavson, Head of Innovation & New business at Södra.

“Huhtamaki has extensive knowledge in the molded-fibre technology which is used to manufacture the trays for Waitrose. Together with the team, we were able to test alternatives and find the right solution all the way from pulp to the retail shelves”, Steve Davey says.

“We have called the new tray concept Fresh. We will continue to develop its properties further and believe there are many new applications for it.”

Find out more about the FRESH project.

24 Jun 2019

Study: Top Feedstocks For Pyrolysis Biorefinery

A study into the composition and processability of different biomass feedstocks has found sunflower seed husks and poplar wood slabs to be the most suitable for producing bio-based products via fast pyrolysis conversion. The study was conducted by Capax Biobased Development and BTG Biomass Technology Group as part of the Horizon 2020 project Bio4Products, which is testing the feasibility of a fast pyrolysis based biorefinery concept.

Feedstock composition

A shortlist of 10 feedstocks were studied, focusing on residues from agriculture, food/feed processing and forestry: Hemp shives, Flax shives, Flax pellets, Wheat straw, Olive kernels, Sunflower husks, Poplar wood slabs, Softwood, Hardwood (poplar) and Phytoremediated poplar wood. These feedstocks were selected based on a previous study into biomass availability as well as their suitability for processing and sustainability parameters.

Capax first investigated the physical properties of each feedstock including particle size and moisture content. This was followed by a chemical characterisation, analysing lignin/cellulose/hemi-cellulose ratio, and ash and mineral content.

Effect on pyrolysis products and fractions

To analyse the effect on quality and yield of fast pyrolysis bio-oil – the main product of fast pyrolysis – each of the feedstocks were converted by BTG Biomass Technology Group at their plant in the Netherlands. The highest yield was obtained from the softwood dust, while the worst result came from the wheat straw.

Finally the bio-oils obtained from the different feedstocks were extracted to obtain lignin and sugar fractions. In general, no large differences were found during the extractions. Based on these results and other criteria including ease of handling and sustainability, a ranking was made, with sunflower seed husks and poplar wood slabs coming out on top.

New bio-based products

The lignin and sugar fractions are renewable chemical intermediates that are being used by downstream partners in the Bio4Products project to substitute fossil materials such as phenols and creosote. Hexion is using the pyrolytic lignin to replace fossil phenol in moulding compounds and insulation foams. TransFurans Chemicals are testing how the sugar fraction can be applied in furan based resins, and is working with Foreco to develop a formulation for wood modification.

Partners are reporting positive results, and it is expected that new bio-based products could hit the market soon after the project closes in 2020.

You can find the study in our resources section.

(Article sourced from: www.bio4products.eu)

20 Jun 2019

Karel De Winter

Job title: Team leader bioprocessing 

Company: Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant

Tell us about your education and working life up to now.

I pursued a PhD at Ghent University after obtaining my MSc in bioscience engineering. Thanks to the FWO Flanders (a Belgium public research council) I focused on research in the field of applied biotechnology. From this I presented in numerous international conferences, publications, patents and book chapters. Completing my PhD I joined the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP) as an R&D project engineer where I currently lead a talented team in the field of industrial biotechnology.

What is your main expertise?

During my PhD I studied enzymatic glycosylation processes, enzyme engineering around the recombinant production and purification of proteins. Now at BBEPP I lead projects on biomass pre-treatment, biocatalysis, (gas) fermentation, downstream purification and green chemistry. In this broad area of industrial biotechnology, the team is focused on process development and scale-up, as well as food-grade applications,

What is your work focused on in the Rehap project?

BBEPP is involved in scaling Rehap's developed processes - the extraction of tannins, lignin and carbohydrates from agroforestry waste - as well as the subsequent fermentation of the obtained carbon source to diols, including their isolation. This latter process highlights the broad spectrum of technology BBEPP offers from biomass pre-treatment over fermentation to ATEX downstream processing.

What are the main challenges you face in this work and how are you meeting these challenges?

In the scale-up the most typical are linked to the broad spectrum of technologies applied. When scaling processes from lab to pilot scale, small challenges encountered in the lab such as purification steps, are exacerbated. For example, when extracting bark, a relatively simple process, it floats on water making it difficult to handle and pump. Also, the piloting phase is used to elevate the performance of any process with industrial equipment and so this is the stage where hurdles are typically encountered. A pro-active mind-set, flexibility and hands-on mentality are must-haves in any piloting environment.

How do you see your work helping the project achieve its main objectives?

Process development at lab scale is a high risk yet low capital-intensive operation. An industrial process on the other hand, typically requires a huge capital investment, but the associated risks from a technological point of view after often limited. Between both phases there is a distinct gap in the innovation chain. During piloting the technological risks are still obvious, while also large capital investments are required. Therefore, the use of shared pilot facilities allows this gap to be bridged in the most efficient way: forging equipment, utilities and in particular skilled and experienced workers. Scaling Rehap processes at BBEPP has allowed in-depth techno-economic assessments, as well as the generation of significant amounts of sample materials.

What impact do you see Rehap having in the future?

Some of the processes developed during the project certainly have potential for commercialisation. However, as is the case for many biotechnological driven innovations, policy makers will have to make sure a suitable environment is created to enable true market penetration.

When scaling processes from lab to pilot scale, small challenges encountered in the lab such as purification steps, are exacerbated

What do you enjoy more about working on a project like Rehap?

Working on the establishment of technology to convert agroforestry waste to building materials is both challenging and inspiring. Moreover, Rehap bundles a large variety of motivated people skilled in different domains. We are also blessed with a great coordinator who makes sure the entire project remains on track.

How would you like to see your work develop after the project ends?

I anticipate the Rehap results to contribute to a solid basis for further research and valorisation. For BBEPP, a continued collaboration with partners from the consortium would be beneficial. 

Meet the other brains behind Rehap

18 Jun 2019

The Assembly SusChem 2019

SusChem is the European platform for sustainable chemistry and will be holding the Assembly SusChem-Spain 2019 on the 26 June.

Rehap will be attending the assembly which will be focused on the next European Framework of Research and Innovation Horizon Europe program. The event will take place at the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and address all issues related to future missions with public-private partnerships (SPIRE, BBI and Hyrdrogen and fuel cells) and new opportunities for the chemical sector. Five areas will be addressed in which chemistry will have a fundamental role.

During the session, among others, Aitor Barrio will present on the keys of, Systematic approach to reduce energy demand and CO2 emissions that transform agroforestry waste into high added-value products as presented in the Rehap project.

Another issue that will be addressed will be that 2020 marks the end of the current European Framework Program for Research Innovation, H2020. A specific session will assess its successor, Horizon Europe.

Read the program here (Spanish).

For more information, visit the website.

14 Jun 2019

EURO 2019 Conference

The 30th European Conference on operational research is taking place on 23 – 26 June 2019 in Dublin, Ireland, and Rehap will be in providing an oral presentation.

The Scientific and Organisation Committees, chaired by Luis Gouveia and Seán McGarraghy, along with Cathal MacSwiney Brugha, have prepared a high quality scientific program and an exciting social program for the conference.

At the conference, Rehap will be presenting during the Sustainable Supply Chains, Session WD22 – Energy Management, on Wednesday at 14:30 to 16:00.

The presentation will look in detail at the, Environmental benefits of a second-generation bioethanol production network designed by integrating Life Cycle Assessment and supply chain network optimisation.

For more information on what Rehap will be presenting, contact: amelia@ipl.eu.com

The full extensive online programme can be found on the website here.

03 Jun 2019

New poster on upscaling processes

TECNALIA and BBEPP are involved in developing an industrial scalable process to obtain lignin for further transformation into high value products. TECNALIA performed a mild extraction to dissolve lignin and further precipitated with sulfuric acid, whilst BBEPP scaled up this method.

To present this development a poster has been created titled: Lignin purification from poplar hydrolysis: From laboratory tests to pilot scale.

Click on the image below to see the complete poster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are working on the Rehap project and would like a poster designed, please get in contact with Amelia at amelia@ipl.eu.com.

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