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Expansion and/or retro-fitting of biorefineries towards higher-value bio-based chemicals and intermediates


Many biorefineries in Europe were built in the past decades with a rather narrow product scope (e.g. biofuel plants, pulp and paper mills). New technologies allow expanding their production capacity to convert bio-based feedstock to added value products, following the cascading approach, and/or to produce new and higher-value products to take full advantage of the existing assets and keep them competitive with the current market requirements. In addition to that, there is a wealth of CAPEX from dismissed or declining industrial assets that could be converted as parts of the biorefinery while exploiting the existing infrastructures, resulting in lower CAPEX, and other economic and technological benefits (e.g. shorter lead times, faster implementation, fewer production time losses and lower risks compared to fully greenfield plant construction).

Proposals under this topic should:

  • Integrate innovative and sustainable conversion processes in existing biorefineries (currently producing a conventional and/or narrow range of products), addressing all elements in the value chain, also integrating, if applicable, dismissed or declined industrial assets that could be converted as parts of the biorefinery by:
    • increasing the valorisation of sustainable bio-based feedstock, from primary and secondary sources, respecting the ‘cascading use’ approach;
    • expanding the use of residual and waste streams from bio-based processes within the biorefinery into added-value products, addressing the technical challenges of converting secondary bio-based feedstock (limited process integration, energy inefficiency, water use, etc.);
    • integrating, when applicable, any other local residual biomass such as residual and waste streams from different sources (aquatic or terrestrial) to extract maximum value from the incoming feedstock and increase the economic viability;
    • developing new production methods enabled by innovative, including emerging breakthrough, technologies;
    • expanding and diversifying the production capacity and range of bio-based products, and increasing their value, including via symbiosis with other industrial actors when applicable;
    • improving the environmental sustainability profile of the plant by decreasing and controlling polluting emission and energy consumption;
    • improving the efficiency of processes to minimise process losses and reducing or eliminating the use of hazardous substances;
    • improving the flexibility to energy supply, e.g. expanding the use of renewable energy resources, increasing electrification, enabling energy storage, etc.;
    • responding to current and foreseen market requirements, e.g. expanding to markets different from the ones considered when building the plant in the first place.
  • Validate the technical and economic viability of the plant conversion concept, enabling its replication including the integration of dismissed industrial assets, if applicable.
  • Demonstrate the replication potential of this flagship concept in the EU and the associated countries.
  • Demonstrate the economic and social sustainability in terms of maintaining (or increasing) jobs and skilled jobs, including at regional level towards an improved social and economic development of sectors providing bio-based feedstock, such as rural community, with no interference with the food value chains.

Proposals are recommended to include a task to perform an assessment based on the safe-and-sustainable-by-design (SSbD) framework, developed by the European Commission, for assessing the safety and sustainability of chemicals and materials[[See documents defining the framework and criteria on:]]. Under this context, proposals are recommended to also include a task to contribute with and develop recommendations that can advance further the application of the SSbD framework[[More specifically, provide thresholds that can support the criteria definition and improvements for the assessment SSbD methodologies, including any specificities related with bio-based surfactants. Recommendations should also include identification of data gaps, especially safety, environmental, but also socio-economic factors, as well as priorities for data collection.]].

Proposals may consider making existing/new industrial assets (e.g. labs, test rigs, etc.) or accessible to researchers, SMEs, etc., for visiting, or training and testing bio-based processes.

Proposals must implement the multi-actor approach and ensure adequate involvement of all key actors in the value chains relevant for this topic, across the sustainable circular bio-based system, e.g. the bio-based processing industry, researchers, feedstock producers and suppliers, regional actors, policy makers and civil society.

Proposals should also describe their contribution to the Specific CBE JU requirements, presented in section and the Cross-cutting elements, highlighted in section of the CBE JU Annual Work Programme 2023[[CBE JU Annual Work Programme 2023 (]].

Where relevant, proposals should seek links with and capitalise on the results of past and ongoing EU funded projects[[For example, HORIZON-JU-CBE-2022-IAFlag-01 Maximum valorisation of sustainably sourced bio-based feedstock in multi-product, zero-waste, zero-pollution biorefinery. Also, topics under Processes4Planet partnership and Horizon Europe Cluster 4 calls should be considered.]].