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BIOSKOH’s Innovation Stepping Stones for a novel European Second Generation BioEconomy

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - BIOSKOH (BIOSKOH’s Innovation Stepping Stones for a novel European Second Generation BioEconomy)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-11-30

Lignocellulosic biomass is one of the most abundant resources of fixed renewable carbon on earth.
While bio-ethanol produced from food crops is already on the market, its production from lignocellulosic feedstock opens up large opportunities in terms of enhanced sustainability, avoided land conflicts and expansion of resource potential, in particular when combinations of crops residues and dedicated crops are employed.
The General Objective of the BIOSKOH project is to establish a breakthrough for 2G biorefineries in Europe, demonstrating a first of its kind, sustainable and financially-sound second generation Biorefinery within the EU.
More specifically BIOSKOH aims to demonstrate that 1) 2G bio-ethanol can be produced and sold at a price viable within current market context, and 2) that there is a potential for further cost reduction. These objectives will be achieved by upscaling the successful 2G technology portfolio developed for the Italian 2G demo Biorefinery: the flagship refinery that will a) be more effective in production, b) built in a brownfield chemical park of Strážske in the East of Slovakia, using existing infrastructures, c) realize industrial symbiosis and d) utilize lowcost local biomass.
Events from 2nd reporting period linked specially to bankruptcy of Biochemtex and consecutive lack of progress related to start up of the Crescentino plant has force Energochemica to reconsider plant construction work commencement and ultimately postpone the launch of the plant construction.

In WP2, relevant steps ahead have been done to draft a Biomass Supply Master Plan. The most relevant, though preliminary, outcome as of the end of RP2 is that the original assumptions regarding the type and mix of residues for the flagship refinery still hold in terms of production and availability in the regions of interest. However in terms of production efficiency some inclusion of more raw material should be considered.
WP3 activities were deeply impacted by the exclusion of Biochemtex and the inclusion of a new technical partner.
Taks 3.1
Results of trials on different types of Biomass helps to increase the scale of feedstock diversification for Ethanol productions.
Taks 3.2
One of the key findings is a step-change in the design of the whole system that has been modified from pressurized to atmospheric configuration. The analyses of past experiences show that atmospheric pressure operation does not increase the residence time of biomass in the low-pressure cooking reactor, while increasing the overall energy efficiency of the pretreatment sector which accounts for as much as 25% of the energy consumed in the entire biorefinery process.
Task 3.3
Viscosity reduction – The projected assumption of 25% of dry matter for the mash feeding the viscosity reduction section for pre-treatment was not reached. In real conditions, in fact, a maximum of 16% dry matter was the highest value.

In WP6 the LCA model was finalized. As to the LUC analyses, during RP2 a methodology and a simulation model were developed. The simulations run in RP2 provided the preliminary result that a LUC-free supply chain for the flagship refinery appears feasible due to the large amount of agricultural marginal land and the amount of residues theoretically available (see also outcomes from WP2).
Also experiments on lignin valorisation in various applications of this by-product indicated that there is a fitting opportunity in using lignin as a substitution for phenol in synthetization of phenolformaldehyde resins. The final lignin-phenolformaldehyde resin developed as a result of experiments in lignin application appears to have desirable characteristics. This fact represents a vital base for further optimization of lignin usage in resins application.
In WP7 the communication and dissemination activities continued, although the suspension caused a substantial slow down for several months. However, the Consortium attended to relevant events organized by EU.
In WP8, after project resumption the Chair of the Ethics Experts Board was finally appointed and activities are starting up.
The overall objective of the BIOSKOH project is to establish a breakthrough for 2G biorefineries in Europe demonstrating a first of its kind sustainable, both environmentally and economically, second generation biorefinery within the EU. In order to achieve this core objective, four stepping stones have been defined, the fulfilment of which will serve as guideline for the overall project execution.
The first objective is to create a new local 2G biomass to ethanol value chain, which would combine the use of local agricultural residues and dedicated energy crops to feed the biorefinery, with the creation of direct and indirect green jobs in the Strazske area. A supply master plan, and the starting of the first crop cultivation trial demo scale have been constantly advancing in the first period. In the second period those activities continued and the preliminary outcomes at the end of RP2 show the feasibility of a LUC-free and cost effective supply chain that will include a mix of agricultural residues and dedicated crops, produced on marginal land.
The second objective was defined in the showcase of a breakthrough in economic sustainability of commercial scale 2G biorefineries, in order to move close the competition with 1G ethanol through process optimization. Testing at pilot plant of 5 different crops received from Slovakia confirms the feasibility and assesses the potential for optimization. In RP2, a number of areas for improvement have been identified; in RP3 the focus of technical activities will be the study or such areas and the drafting of solutions which will be embedded in the scale-up design of the flagship refinery.
Engineering, Procurement and Construction, as well as permitting of the plant were performed. Energochemica decided to include an additional raw material – woody biomass – based on production tests at demonstration scale. Due to this modification the start-up of the plant has been postponed and the procurement is in progress. After a deeper analysis of woody biomass, its impact on the supply chain strategy and on the flagship design and operations, the consortium decided to switch back to the original mix of feedstocks.
The third objective was related to the preparation of a second stage investment decision, with the double aim of increasing production volume and to achieve a valorization of the sides streams and differentiation of the products, which the introduction of ethanol-to-ethylene conversion.
First laboratory experiments dedicated on lignin valorization into materials, such as the inclusion in the synthesis of phenol-formaldehyde resins and the preparation of wood-plastic boards were performed.
The fourth objective is to produce a blueprint of the economics sustainability concept and replication scenarios for Europe, by stimulating the replication of the BIOSKOH concept. More than a hundred potential brownfields were evaluated and four were selected for getting into a second phase of deeper analysis and direct contact with the local responsible and stakeholders.
The BIOSKOH project was widely disseminated in European public events by the consortium, either through simple attendance and networking or through speaking and presenting the work and results of the project as well as exhibiting.
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