During the most recent partner meeting in Ghent, Germany, hosted by Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP), participants had the opportunity to tour the plant to see what really goes on inside the state-of-the-art facility. We spoke with Brecht Vanlerberghe who heads research and development at BBEPP.

Who are BBEPP and what do they do?

You have BBEPP which is the plant, a flexible and diversified pilot plant for the development and scale-up of new or existing bio-based and sustainable processes to an industrial level. It performs the entire process from the green resources to the final product.

BBEU is the task force responsible for tasks in areas such as biocatalysis, green chemistry, and the development of industrial recovery and purification techniques, in several publicly funded projects of which 16 are H2020 projects and three are Interreg Europe projects.

In addition to this, BBEU is a service provider to many companies in the biotech domain and bio-based economy. Since 2010, BBEU has served over 100 customers in over 200 private projects in the field of development, scale-up or pilot production.

And BBEU’s mission?

To close the gap in the innovation chain of the bio-based economy, bridging science and industrial production.

What is the role of BBEPP in the Rehap project?

BBEU does the upscaling of 2,3-butanediol from fermentation, which is a renewable chemical building block.

The process performed begins from the upscaling of the extraction of tannin and lignin from bark residues which are then made available to the partners (i.e. Foresa and Technalia) for the evaluation of bio-based resins. After the extraction, the residues are hydrolysed to produce so-called second-generation sugars – sugars made from lignocellulosic biomass, or in other terms, derived from plant materials.

The substance produced by hydrolysis is called hydrolysate, and it is these that will then be evaluated by BBEPP for the upscaling of 2,3-butanediol, with a new technology developed by Biosyncaucho, a company that aims to develop high added-value chemical products from renewable raw materials. Novamont is a company that converts ex-industrial sites to active biorefineries and evaluates feedstock for the fermentative production of 1,4-butanediol. Both 1,4-butanediol and 2,3-butanediol, the final products in this process, are therefore chemicals made from renewable biomass and can replace non-renewable chemicals.

You recently hosted the Rehap partner meeting which included a tour of BBEPP. What did this entail?

I gave a brief introduction on the history, the mission and the activities of BBEPP after which Karel Dewinter, Rehap project leader for BBEPP, invited partners on a guided tour through the plant.

The BBEPP infrastructure exists out of roughly three large areas: the red hall, where the biomass fractionation and the less sensitive processes are executed; the white hall, where the fermentation processes can be scaled from the lab fermenters to 15m³ fermenters; and the green hall, where mild chemical and explosion-sensitive processes can be run.

The partners were also shown the construction area, where a new process hall is being built which will host extra, and larger, equipment to increase capacity and to enlarge the capabilities of BBEPP. The inauguration event of this new build is scheduled for February 19th 2018 – so save the date!