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Develop breakthrough technologies to improve the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of pre-treatment steps within biorefining operations


Identify and develop cost-effective, efficient and sustainable technologies for biomass pre-treatments, paving the way for feeding the biomass fractions/components obtained after pre-treatments into the subsequent conversion steps. The solutions developed may be based on chemical, biochemical or physical processes, or a combination of these.
This topic may include any bio-based feedstock, provided it can be sourced in a way that is sustainable both from an environmental and an economic perspective.
Proposals should prove that the pre-treatment solution developed has the potential, when compared to state-of-the-art processes, to decrease costs, inhibitors and waste streams formation, and to make maintenance and process control easier.
Proposals should include testing activities on targeted bio-based feedstock to prove the potential for the subsequent upscaling of the developed process.
Proposals should address all requirements for RIA as shown in Table 3 of the Annual Work Plan 2019.
The technology readiness level (TRL) at the end of the project should be 4-5 for the bio-based value chain in question. Proposals should clearly state the starting and end TRLs of the key technology or technologies targeted in the project.
Industry participation in the project would be considered as an added value because it can play a supportive role to demonstrate the potential for integrating the developed concepts and technologies into current industrial landscapes or existing plants so they can be deployed more quickly and scaled up to apply industry-wide.

INDICATIVE FUNDING:
It is considered that proposals requesting a contribution of between EUR 2 million and EUR 5 million would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The implementation of biorefining concepts at large scales is often affected by the need to achieve a balance between pre-treatment steps and the main conversion phase. The need to obtain high-purity fractions from the starting biomass to be fed into the following steps entails the use of harsh conditions in the pre-treatments. This entails high costs caused by: (i) energy, water and/or raw materials (e.g. chemicals, enzymes) requirements; (ii) complexity of operations and maintenance; (iii) an increase in waste and residues generation; and (iv) increased production of inhibitor compounds that may affect the overall yields of biorefining processes.
On the other hand, soft operating conditions in pre-treatments often result in a lower effectiveness in biomass fractionation, thus directly affecting the yields in the targeted products during conversion phases.
Several technologies based on chemical, biochemical, physical processes or a combination of these has shown the potential to provide valuable and sustainable solutions to substitute and/or efficiently integrate pre-treatment processes currently implemented.
The specific challenge is to reduce costs and improve sustainability associated with the pre-treatment steps of biomass feedstock while making it possible to achieve of sufficiently high yields in the targeted products in the subsequent conversion steps.

EXPECTED IMPACTS LINKED TO BBI JU KPIS:
▪ contribute to KPI 1 – create at least one new cross-sector interconnection in the bio-based economy;
▪ contribute to KPI 2 – set the basis for at least one new bio-based value chain;
▪ contribute to KPI 8 – validate at least one new and improved processing technology reflecting the ‘TRL gain’ since the start of the project.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS:
▪ improve the sustainability of pre-treatment steps for targeted biomass feedstock compared to the state of the art;
▪ decrease biomass losses and waste generation during pre-treatment steps;
▪ increase the overall resource efficiency;
▪ reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

ECONOMIC IMPACTS:
▪ improve the cost-effectiveness of pre-treatment steps for targeted biomass feedstock compared to the state of the art;
▪ pave the way to the effective implementation of breakthrough technologies in biorefining operations to broaden and strengthen the bio-based industry in Europe;
▪ enhance and simplify maintenance and process control operations associated with pre-treatment steps of targeted bio-based feedstock;
▪ increase income and business opportunities for stakeholders and actors in the bio-based industries.

SOCIAL IMPACTS:
▪ create new job opportunities in the bio-based sector, particularly the rural, coastal and/or urban areas.

TYPE OF ACTION: Research and innovation action.