Many of the products we use in our everyday lives are made up of fossil fuels such as petroleum. The Rehap project will help European countries reduce the use of non-renewable resources in the process industry.
In 2012, the EU introduced the bioeconomy concept: “The bioeconomy […] encompasses the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy.”
The bioeconomy strategy and action plan focuses on three areas:
- investment in research, innovation and skills;
- reinforcement of policy interaction and stakeholder engagement;
- enhancement of markets and competitiveness in bioeconomy sectors.
Currently, the EU’s production of biopolymers from biomass and by-products is limited, which means they have to be imported. Rehap aims to strengthen the European bioeconomy industry by researching new chemical processing routes to develop new resins and biopolymers to increase the use of biomass in the EU and lower greenhouse gas emissions. It will also demonstrate the industrial viability of these new processes and products.
The project will use agricultural and forestry waste materials (straw and bark) as a substitute for non-renewable petroleum-based raw materials for use in the green building sector. It will extract sugars, lignins and tannins from the straw and bark, and then use them to develop bio-based insulation foams, adhesives, resins and cement.
By manufacturing bio-based polymers, 25-55 per cent less fossil energy is used compared to petroleum-based polymers. This in turn reduces CO2 emissions by 54 per cent, and non-renewable primary energy by 25 per cent.
Equally, if biopolyurethane is used as an adhesive or foam instead of PU adhesives, there will be a reduction of energy use and CO2 emissions of up to 50 per cent. In fact, Rehap aims at reducing energy utilisation by 30 per cent and non-renewable feedstock by 80 per cent.