Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - SIMPHASRLS (Exploitation of oily wastes for the simultaneous production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) and rhamnolipids (RLs))

The scope of the project was to investigate the ability of non-pathogenic bacteria to produce high value added products in the form of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), which are accumulated inside the cells, along with biosurfactants, i.e. rhamnolipids (RLs), which are classified as low molecular mass glycolipid surfactants and are excreted from the cells in the growth medium.

It is clear that research on the proposed theme is of great significance since important information were acquired concerning:
- Which strains have the ability to produce PHAs and RLs simultaneously, or other types of bioemulsifiers,
- How environmental and culture conditions affect PHAs and RLs production yield, composition, distribution and physicochemical properties,
- The correlation between their biosynthetic routes,
- The exploitation of oily waste for PHAs and RLs simultaneous production.

Implementation of the project gave new perspective on PHAs production, i.e. simultaneous production of PHAs and RLs as suggested in the present proposal, thus promoting research on the specific field. The innovative nature of the project is believed that would be extremely beneficial for the research community, society and the environment.

The industrial production of PHAs and RLs is still limited due to their high production cost compared to the cost of the petrochemically derived polymers and surfactants. The present proposal represented an effort to reduce PHAs and RLs cost. The selection of a non-pathogenic bacterial strain able to simultaneously produce PHAs and RLs will not arise any further concerns on public safety and health issues and less control of the bioprocess operation will be required. Their production can occur simultaneously in a single bioprocess, by operating one bioreactor instead of two (required for their individual production). Thus, the operational cost will be decreased. In addition, the utilization of renewable and sustainable feedstocks as carbon source, such as waste vegetable oils, will further reduce their overall production cost approximately by 30-50%. At the same time, this kind of biological treatment will mild the detrimental effect of their disposal in environmental sites.

Gradually, even more food-industries in Europe, as well as worldwide, are interested in managing their waste streams, due to strict legislation concerning their environmental disposal, and convert them to high value-added chemicals. Evidence on their interest can be found in their participation in relevant research projects and the development of their R&D (Research and Development) section. As a result, in the near future the concept of Integrated BioRefinery (IBR) is expected to grow and became increasingly popular through the development of bioprocesses that produce minimal waste with limited impact on the environment.

The optimized PHAs and RLs production process in laboratory scale can be further developed in pilot scale. In the future this action is expected to foster collaboration between the academia and industry thus transfer of knowledge from academia to the industrial sector will occur which is expected to be beneficial to environment, society, research and economy. In this way, research in the field will be developed addressing research arising issues and suggesting solutions concerning bioprocess development and optimization in pilot scale.

According to analysis and forecasting on global revenue and consumption PHA market consumption is expected to grow from an estimated 10,000 MT in 2013 to 34,000 MT by 2018, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27.7% from 2013 to 2018. As it regards biosurfactants their global market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.14% between 2015-2018, reaching USD 2,210.5 million and a market volume of around 476,000 tons by 2018-2019, with Europe’s market revenue share forecasted at 53.3%, followed by North America. On the other hand emulsifiers have been and are extensively used by many industries worldwide and their global market is worth around US$ 1 bn per annum. In addition, nowadays there is an important trend towards the implementation of natural/biologically derived products (that will substitute and outcompete their petrochemical counterparts) mostly from food and healthcare industries since those compounds will have perceived benefits to consumer’s health.

The transition from petrochemical-based feedstocks to renewable and sustainable feedstocks is already evident in the major global chemical companies in a product portfolio, both actual and potential, comprising bulk commodities, fine and platform chemicals and plastics. The chemicals industry is turning to industrial biotechnology as a route to new commercial opportunities to maintain their future market share, delivering significant improvement in process profitability and potential for considerable market growth and competitive positioning. The future shape of the global chemicals industry may be the result of a transition initiated now from a refinery of fossil fuel substrates to a biomass-based IBR.

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