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jueves, 15 de marzo de 2018

Biosolvent plant project of Circa and Norske Skog receives support from the Australian Government

Type of post: NEWS.

Cyrene™ is an environmentally friendly, sustainably produced solvent that has the potential to replace fossil based solvents currently used in the pharmaceutical and agrichemical industries. The Melbourne-based chemical technology R&D company Circa Group has developed a process to manufacture this biosolvent from cellulosic waste. In 2017, the team established a 50 tons per year prototype plant (FC5) in cooperation with Norske Skog. This Norwegian firm, with headquarters in Oslo, is one of the world’s largest producers of publication papers. In Australasia, Norske Skog owns and operates mills at Boyer (Tasmania), Albury (New South Wales) and Kawerau (New Zealand).

According to news published in Print21 (business magazine and online news service for the printing and graphic arts industries in Australia and New Zealand), the Federal Government of Australia is investing 1.5 M$ in a feasibility study for the project’s next stage scale-up which is being designed to produce 5,000 tons of biomass-derived chemical levoglucosenone and Cyrene™ from waste sawdust at the Boyer Mill in Tasmania. The Government of this region has also pledged 1.5 M$ towards the project.

The process

The proprietary technology of Circa, Furacell™, utilises cellulosic waste (sawdust, bagasse, straw…) to produce levoglucosenone, biochar and water. Although biomass pyrolysis processes often produce a range of unwanted chemicals, the Furacell™ process is highly selective and it generates minimal by-products, reducing downstream separation processes and waste disposal. Char produced has more than enough energy content to run the process.

Figure 1. Conversion process of cellulose into Cyrene™ (extracted from Circa website)

Levoglucosenone is an emerging platform molecule for biosolvents, flavours and biopolymers. Its conversion to Cyrene™ is a relatively simple one-step process (hydrogenation). Circa has taken time to scale the process efficiently: the technology has been proven over 6 years in four pilot plants. The manufacturing philosophy has been maintained as they increased production volumes.

The biosolvent

Cyrene™ is Circa’s trade name for dihydrolevoglucosenone. It is a cyclic ketone containing two protons alpha to the carbonyl group. It has been shown to possess similar physical properties to those of DMF and other polar aprotic solvents (like NMP and DCM). In addition to its renewability, Cyrene™, as yet, has no associated pernicious effects and could potentially represent a direct and functional replacement in many of the fundamental reactions that typically employ DMF (it is under regulatory pressure in several countries). Because it has only been available in useful quantities quite recently, its chemistry remains relatively unexplored.

In 2017, Cyrene™ was recognised as the “Bio-based Chemical Innovation of the Year” at the Bio Based World Innovation Awards in Amsterdam.

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