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lunes, 30 de enero de 2017

BIOGREEN Project – Laying the foundations for the first green biorefinery in Spain

Updated: 02/02/2017.

The green biorefinery model is based on the use of fresh wet biomass (green biomass) as feedstock. Examples of green biomass are grass growing in pastureland and crops like alfalfa and clover. This kind of biomass has become a surplus raw material in many European regions due to the restructuring of the farm sector. Thus, serious industrial efforts have been carried out to valorize it through innovating and integral approaches like the green biorefinery model. Such efforts have concentrated in Northern regions (mainly, Germany and Austria). If you want to know more about the green biorefinery model and examples of operating facilities, you can read this post: Biorefinery models - Green biorefinery.

And it appeared that this concept also wants to carve out a place in Spain. A partnership of Andalusian and Galician companies, with the cooperation of AINIA and CETIM, has started to work in a project aimed to develop a green biorefinery concept that allows to obtain energy and high value products in agroindustrial environments from non-food and high performance crops. It is the BIOGREEN project that arises with the intention of boosting the bioeconomy concept and the development of traditionally agricultural areas to transform them in competitive zones.

The partnership will try to find a sustainable way for lands non used in crop production and to develop bioproducts of easy integration in local markets of rural areas. During the project, a pilot plant and an existing facilities (see the information at the end of the post) will lay the foundations for the first reference of a green biorefinery in Spain.

Figure 1. Biogas plant of Norvento in Lugo (courtesy of Norvento). It will house the tests to validate the results obtained in the pilot plant.

Key information

BIOGREEN (Innovating technological solutions to develop a biorefinery model from green biomass)
Project funded by CDTI (Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology) through the FEDER INNTERCONECTA program. It is assisted by the Ministry of Economy and Competitivity and cofunded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Biorefinery model
Green biorefinery based on the circular economy concept.
Feedstock: green biomass, non-food and high performance crops.
Primary fractionation: pressing to obtain two main streams (green juice and lignocellulosic cake).
Valorization pathway and products of the juice: 
- First stage of the anaerobic digestion (hydrolytic): obtaining of volatile fatty acids (VFAs). PHAs are producing from them by fermentative process.

- Second stage of the anaerobic digestion (methanogenic): obtaining of biogas and digestate. The latter is the platform for the fertilizers production.
Valorization pathway and products of the cake: manufacturing of fibre products (cellulose acetate).
Total: 1.182.800 € / Funding: 679.179,90 €.
2.5 years (ending by 31th December, 2018)
Norvento (bussiness group of the renewable energies sector, Galicia): anerobic digestion process.
Agroamb (innovating PyME, Galicia): validation of the fractionation system for the feedstock and production of the fertilizers from the digestate.
BIOT (technology-based company, Andalusia): design, engineering and operation of bioreactors for the production of biopolymers.
Idener (PyME, Andalusia): extraction of biopolymers and integration and simulation of the process at larger scales.
Galchimia (PYME, Galicia): development and validation of the biomass processing for the synthesis of cellulose acetate.
CETIM (technological centre, Galicia): cooperation in the activities of Galchimia.
AINIA (technological centre, Valencian Community): cooperation in the activities related to the biomass characterization, process of anaerobic digestion, biopolymers production and digestate valorization as fertilizer.

Figure 2. Green biorefinery model to be developed in the BIOGREEN project (courtesy of Norvento)

Specific activities
  • Characterization and fractionation of the biomass for the production of the cake and the juice.
  • Laboratory and pilot studies of the anaerobic digestion in two stages.
  • Development of the process for the production of cellulose acetate.
  • Production and extraction of biopolymers.
  • Tests to evaluate the suitability of the digestate as fertilizer, first in the lab and subsequently in rural zones.
  • Study at commercial scale of the second stage of the anaerobic digestion with possibility of co-digestion with other local wastes to maximize the biogas production.

Existing and pilot facilities

The construction, assembly and operation of a hydrolytic reactor at pilot scale (the size will be defined according to the laboratory results) is expected. It will be coupled to another existing 2 m3 reactor to achieve the separation in two stages of the anaerobic digestion. After mounted, the facility will be operated with green juice streams from the initial phases of the project with the purpose of optimizing the hydraulic and operational parameters. There, the generation of biogas and the extraction of VFAs will be optimized. PHAs production by aerobic fermentation (enrichment and accumulation) from VFAs will be carried out in the facilities of BIOT that will build specific pilot reactors for this purpose.

After that, with the information obtained in the pilot plant, biomethanisation tests will be carried out in an existing commercial plant (reactor of 350 m3, 50 kW of power), owned by Norvento and located in the province of Lugo.

Acknowledgements: I would like to express my appreciation to Iago Jove (Technician in the Biomass Area at Norvento) for his kind collaboration.

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