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lunes, 17 de julio de 2017

BBI JU flagship projects - The new generation of European advanced biorefineries

The flagship is the main vessel of a fleet. It carries the flag of the commander indicating the route to follow. The BBI JU reserves this designation for a special kind of prominent projects that has the potential to lead the European bioeconomy to the next level. While I was reading the new Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) of the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) to prepare a recent post, I realised how important they are for the creation of a new generation of advanced biorefineries, So, I decided to write a post explaining the concept and introducing briefly the flagship projects funded so far.

One of the main priorities of the BBI JU is bringing sustainable technologies to maturity through R&D and demonstration activities. The work done to date is really impressive: 36 running projects + 29 starting from call 2016 giving a total of 65 projects. 6 of those 65 are flagships. What are their common characteristics?
  • They mainly involve demo activities corresponding to TRL 8 (system complete and qualified).
  • They support the launch of an innovation that has been demonstrated but not yet deployed on the market.
  • They include the establishment of a first-of-a-kind, large-scale facility. This may be a new plant, a substantially remodelled existing facility or a reconverted old or abandoned industrial facility.
  • They cover a complete value chain: procurement, growth and supply of feedstock; biomass conversion via biorefining into biobased chemicals and materials; market up-take of end products.

Figure 1. Correspondence between BBI JU actions and TRL (extracted from SIRA 2017)

The earmarked funds for these projects are very high as building and running first-of-a-kind plants entails significantly higher costs and risks than demonstration plants because of the increased scale. Moreover, they have significantly higher costs and higher risks than subsequent commercial plants which benefit from a learning curve and better financial terms.

According to the SIRA, the objective for 2020 is to sign at least 5 flagship grant agreements between the BBI JU and project consortia. Currently, this milestone is already achieved. Even, it is supposed that a sixth flagship has been signed under 2016 call. I tried to look up this flagship in CORDIS (Community Research and Development Information Service). At the time of writing this post, there are 28 projects registered and they should be 29. 1 project is still missing and it is a flagship.
NOTE 1: This information will be updated if the sign of the sixth flagship is unveiled.

The first version of the SIRA specified 1 flagship for each of the 5 reference value chains to be developed by the programme. In fact, an example for every value chain was described in the document. The following table summarizes those descriptions.

Value Chain (VC)
VC flagship example
From lignocellulosic feedstock to advanced biofuels, biobased chemicals and biomaterials
Advanced biofuels, biobased chemicals and energy from 400,000 dry tons of straw.
The next generation forest-based value chains
Production of innovative pulp fibres for textiles at a volume of 200,000 ton/y from wood, coproducing new bio-based products at 20,000 ton/y.
The next generation agro-based value chains
Processing of agricultural green or lignocellulosic residues and surplus into 100,000 ton/y of proteins and valuable chemicals and materials.
Emergence of new value chains from organic waste
Conversion of 400,000 tons of straw, 650,000 tons of manure and 50,000 tons of MSW into 73 Ml of bioethanol and about 99 Mm3 of biogas. In addition, district heating for approx. 10-20,000 households and electricity equivalent to 15-25,000 households’ consumption will be produced.
The integrated energy, pulp and chemicals biorefineries
Conversion of an energy plant that currently co-fires 1,000,000 ton/y of biomass for energy production, into an integrated biorefinery producing 400,000 ton/y cellulose fibres and chemicals next to bioenergy.

This was the starting point. The current reality is reflected in the tables below. 2014 and 2015 calls numbered its topics with a link to the specific value chains mentioned in the SIRA 2013. However, in order to promote the cross-sectorial integration along and across value chains, this link disappeared from 2016 call. This is the reason to introduce two separated tables. There is one empty row waiting for the eventual confirmation of one flagship more.

Value Chain
Feedstock and processing capacity
Products and production capacity
BBI JU contribution
VC1 (lignocellulose)
Agricultural residues (600 kton) in combination with dedicated energy crops to be grown on marginal lands (320 kton).
1st stage: 2G ethanol (55 kton).
2nd stage: 2G ethanol (110 kton); bioethylene; other products from sidestreams.
Brownfield industrial site in the eastern part of the Slovak Republic.
Biochemtex (Italy).
21,568,195 €
2G ethanol (60 kton); biochar from lignin; fertilizer from sludge.
Clariant (Germany).
24,739,430 €
VC2 (forest-based)
Cellulose fibres.
Microfibrillated cellulose (1 kton).
Sarspborg (Norway).
Borregaard (Norway).
27,433,610 €
VC3 (agro-based)
Underutilized oil crops (cardoon) grown in arid and/or marginal lands.
Pelargonic and azelaic acids (10 kton each); biodegradable esters (20 kton).
Sardinia (Italy).
Novamont (Italy).
16,995,882 €

Feedstock and processing capacity
Products and production capacity
BBI JU contribution
FDCA (50 kton).
BASF’s Verbund site in Antwerp (Belgium).
Synvina (Netherlands)
24,999,610 €
25 ktons (100% dry matter) of whey permeate (WP) and delactosed whey permeate (DLP).
l-Lactic acid, polylactic acid, minerals for human nutrition and biobased fertiliser.
Glanbia Ingredients (Ireland)
22,007,931 €

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