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jueves, 27 de julio de 2017

URBIOFIN and PERCAL projects – The urban biorefinery model in action

The circular economy and the bioeconomy are not watertight compartments at all. Even, in certain circumstances, boundaries between both models disappear and it is difficult to say where we are. This is the case of the PERSEO process that the BR Blog introduced last May seizing the launch of the WASTE2BIO project (see this post to know more about them). IMECAL, the company behind the process, seeks to develop a technological platform to lay the foundations of a highly integrated MSW biorefinery.

This aim is very well aligned with the working lines of the BBI JU. In fact, the Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda 2017 of the BIC reads literally that “BBI activities will assist in developing and deploying innovative technological and logistic solutions to efficiently set up new value chains based on biowaste by making the best possible use of cascading and circular approaches”. And, the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) is one the prime exponents of biowastes. The harmony with the BBI JU strategy has resulted in funding for two projects that suppose a strong impulse for this platform.

The following synopsis is intended to give a general overview of both projects:

Demonstration of an integrated innovative biorefinery for the transformation of Municipal Solid Waste into new biobased products
Chemical building blocks from versatile MSW biorefinery
Grant agreement No 745785.
Grant agreement No 745828.
Type of project
Innovation Action - DEMO
Research and Innovation Action
Total cost
15.061.282,51 €
3.394.181,26 €
EU contribution
10.946.366,03 €
2.518.517,64 €
From 2017-06-01 to 2021-05-31.
From 2017-07-01 to 2020-06-30.
Industrias Mecánicas Alcudia SA (IMECAL) / Spain.
- Asociación de Investigación de la Industria Agroalimentaria (AINIA) / Spain.
- BCM BioEconomy Cluster Management GmbH / Germany.
- Biomasa Peninsular S.A. / Spain.
- Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT) / Spain.
- Exergy Ltd / UK.
- G.I. Dynamics B.V. / Netherlands.
- Instituto Regional de Investigación y Desarrollo Agroalimentario y Forestal de Castilla-La Mancha / Spain.
- IRIS Advanced Engineering Limited / Ireland.
- NaturePlast SAS / France.
- Novozymes A/S / Denmark.
- Stéfany Emballages et Services / France.
- Stichting Wageningen Research / Netherlands.
- The International Natural and Organic Cosmetic Association (NaTrue AISBL) / Belgium.
- Universidad de Valladolid / Spain.
- Urbaser S.A. / Spain.
- Agricultural University of Athens / Greece.
- Asociación de Investigación de Materiales Plásticos y Conexas (AIMPLAS) / Spain.
- Bayer MaterialScience AG / Germany.
- Exergy Ltd / UK.
- Fundación CENER-CIEMAT / Spain.
- Hayat Kimya Sanayi A.S. / Turkey.
- IRIS Advanced Engineering Limited / Ireland.
- Leibniz-Institut für Agrartechnik und Bioökonomie e.V. (ATB) / Germany.
- SO.F.TER. S.p.A. / Italy.
- tbw research GesmbH / Austria.
- Universiteit Gent / Belgium.


The project aims to demonstrate the large-scale (10 ton/d), economically competitive deployment of treatment and conversion technologies of the OFMSW into final or intermediate products. By using the biorefinery concept applied to MSW treatment (urban biorefinery), URBIOFIN will exploit the OFMSW as feedstock to produce different valuable marketable products for several markets. URBIOFIN will offer a new feasible and more sustainable scenario alternative to the current treatment of the OFMSW. The plethora of bioproducts to be studied are summarized in the following table.

Biobased product
Chemical building block for bioethylene production and VFAs elongation
Mcl fatty acids (MCFA)
Chemical platform for mcl-PHA production
Chemical building block for scl-PHA
Bioethylene gas
Ripening gas in post-harvest fruit chambers
Short chain polyhydroxyalcanoates (scl-PHA)
Bioplastic for agriculture and household bags
Medium chain polyhydroxyalcanoates (mcl-PHA)
Bioplastic for packaging
Biocomposites of scl and mcl-PHA
Cosmetic and hygienic applications
Aminoacids rich liquid fertiliser
High added value liquid biofertilisers
Dry organic-mineral granules
Solid biofertiliser

Figure 1. Biorefinery concept to be demonstrated during the URBIOFIN project

Three demonstration modules will be developed according to the scheme showed in the Figure 1:
- Module 1: L´Alcudia (Valencia). IMECAL.
- Module 2: Zaragoza. URBASER.
- Module 3: Puerto Llano (Ciudad Real). IRIAF.


PERCAL will exploit Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) as feedstock to develop intermediate chemical products at high yield and low impurity level with huge industrial interest. These will be complementary to the bioethanol (existing PERSEO technology) and allow to create a cascade of valorisation from the MSW components. The three target chemical products and their final applications are described below.

Lactic acid
It can be used together with bioethanol to make eco-friendly ethyl lactate for cleaning products and inks.
Hot-melt adhesives for cardboard and other non-food applications in combination with maleic anhydride by reactive extrusion.
Succinic acid
Intermediate building block for the production of polyols for the polyurethane industry.
Biosurfactants by chemical and/or microbiological modification of protein and lipids from remaining fraction of MSW fermentation
Detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents and dispersants.

In order to minimize the limitations of MSW heterogeneous composition (due to seasonal and origin variability driven by local economic, social and climate conditions) as a fermentation feedstock, four main innovations will be proposed during the project:
  • New enzymatic cocktails to maximize hydrolysis of fermentable organic matter with low inhibitors production.
  • The use of high yield, specific and robust strains for each selected acid.
  • The extraction of fermentation by-products acting as inhibitors to succinic acid production via novel membrane electrolysis.
  • The optimization of simultaneous saccharification and fermentation for lactic acid production followed by a downstream separation process based on membrane electrodialysis.

To maximize the yield and purity of target organic acids, continuous and single step fermentation process will be prioritized in order to allow their integration in the PERSEO plant.

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