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Improve biorefinery operations through process intensification and new end products

Develop and evaluate process intensification steps and schemes for an integrated lignocellulosic biorefinery to lower capital and operational costs for safely achieving high yields of desired products.

When addressing the in situ recovery of targeted products, proposals should focus on technologies that will also enable the removal of highly reactive products and should consider a range of products including liquid and gaseous products.

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.

Biorefinery operations, processing specific types of biomass feedstock, yield a wide variety of products and fractions for further valorisation to applications such as food, feed and materials. However, existing pre-treatment steps often result in relatively high concentrations of impurities and inhibitors, impeding high yields of the desired products. In the case of fermentation processes, for example, downstream processing steps for separation and purification could easily amount to about 80% of the total fermentation costs.

Ongoing developments towards process intensification of the total plant operation in other industrial sectors offer interesting opportunities for the bio-based industry. For example, in the petrochemical, pharmaceutical and food processing industries, process intensification has led to re-sizing, higher efficiencies and safer operations with significant cost reductions1. Similarly, process intensification could lower the costs of bio-based operations, including conversion and downstream processing.

The specific challenge is to improve biorefinery operations by applying process intensification concepts to lower operational costs, increase operational safety and achieve high yields of the desired products.

1 See for example: D. Reay, C. Ramshaw, A. Harvey. Process Intensification: Engineering for Efficiency, Sustainability and Flexibility. Butterworth-Heinemann (2013).

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:

▪ decrease biomass losses by at least 10%2;
▪ increase the overall resource efficiency;
▪ reduce the amount of energy required for separation and purification of the targeted products;
▪ reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with downstream process steps within the biorefinery operations.

Economic impacts:

▪ decrease overall costs associated with biorefinery processes by at least 10%2 compared with current processing solutions identified as benchmarks;
▪ when addressing fermentation processes, reduce production costs associated with the targeted products by at least 20%2 as compared with the state of the art;
▪ increase income and business opportunities for stakeholders and actors (including primary producers) in the bio-based sectors.

Social impacts:

▪ improve the operational safety aspects linked to biorefinery operations;
▪ create new job opportunities in the bio-based sector, particularly the rural, coastal and/or urban areas.

Type of action: Research and innovation action.

2 The proposal should present a convincing justification of the calculation of this rate, based on established econometric models and statistical data.