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Life Integrated Process for the Enzymatic Splitting of triglycerides

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LIPES (Life Integrated Process for the Enzymatic Splitting of triglycerides)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-08-31

The LIPES project is dedicated to reaching the first market replication of an innovative production process leading to greener and healthier fatty acids.

The LIPES approach involves a process that replaces current thermal hydrolysis and saponification production routes with a new enzyme-based, environmentally friendly alternative.

It is expected to lead to the creation of high purity bio-based intermediates and end products from vegetable oils and fats.

The overall objectives of the LIPES project are therefore :
- To perform the scale-up to pre-industrial level of a new, economically viable and environmentally friendly alternative process leading to higher quality fatty acids and derivatives, therefore widening their range of application
- To Optimise resource efficiency with a minimum saving of 45% water consumption, 70% of enzymes and 80% of energetic consumption over traditional processes
- To contribute to reaching the EC goals on waste reduction by elaborating and evaluating new value chains for making use of agricultural co-products

Its main societal impacts will be:
- To strengthen the competitiveness of EU oleochemicals industry in a context of growing global competition by bringing high performance high quality products onto the market.
- To contribute to sustainanbility as highlighted above by optimising resource efficiency
- To develop high quality products along the whole value chain and in particular a zero trans fats grade of fatty acids with proven benefits in human health
The LIPES project delivered on the design & engineering of the demo plant for enzymatic hydrolysis that then led to the built-up, commissioning and start-up of the demo plant, with a first run in July 2019.

Operation in continuous mode was also successfully achieved at 5L, 13L and 200L pilot scales and is being optimised for implementation at demo scale. In particular yields still need to be improved to reach the expected 98%+ target, together with the enzyme consumption.

In further details:
- maintenance and modifications aimed at optimizing the enzymatic process on the demo plant for the hydrolysis of sunflower/rapeseed oils have begun.

- the enzymatic process for the hydrolysis of castor to ricinoleic acid, which requires more extensive optimisation, has been validated at the 13L scale and is about to undergo scale-up at 200 L scale. A novel enzyme was developed and selected for that purpose, that can split castor oil at 97%+.

In terms of products quality, the LIPES project is on course to meeting its stated objectives to producing zero trans fatty acids. It has been confirmed for high oleic sunflower, rapeseed and linseed oils that the enzymatic process developed in LIPES doesn’t lead to neoformed trans fatty acids in contrast with the standard thermal process, through which the natural trans fatty acid content is multiplied (eg from 0.3% to 1.2% for high oleic sunflower, whilst it remains constant through the enzymatic process).

The economic evaluation of the process is still aligned with predictions made at project start: current extrapolations from the stage at which each demonstration is for the enzymatic hydrolysis of vegetable oils indicate that production costs for the enzymatic hydrolysis of vegetable oils are below that of the thermal hydrolysis of the same oils, even though enzyme consumption still needs to be optimised.

This is made possible thanks to the lower temperature used in the process in particular as well as to the continued valorisation of side stream glycerine rich products. Glycerine effluents are at the expected concentration levels (>20%) to serve as feed for the preparation of crude/refined glycerine grades in the glycerine plant.

Derivatisation of enzymatically produced fatty acids has been performed to obtain polymer end-products. Currently the optimized polymerization recipe is being scaled up to pilot plant scale melt polymerizations to produce sufficient amounts of co-polyester for injection molding and subsequent testing.

Two new hydrogenated dimer fatty acid monomers were obtained during this reporting period. A C44 based hydrogenated dimer fatty acid sample was evaluated and showed that the polymerization was more challenging but was successful when a small amount of branching agent was added. The obtained co-polyester polymer showed distinct properties compared to the regular C36 based polymers, which justifies further investigations of this monomer.

The upcoming reporting period will also see the deployment of a range of ester products derived from enzymatically synthesised fatty acids: Emulsifiers / surfactants for food, feed and cosmetic applications: Polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR) and Glycerolmonooleate (GMO); lubricants additives: Trimethylolpropane trioleate (TMPTO) and GMO.

Their becoming available will allow the LIPES consortium to speed up the promotion of the LIPES project outcomes in terms of newly developed technology and its key environmental benefits. So far this has been achieved through dissemination activities resulting in 34 communication opportunities, the identification of 5 topics for publications, 2 of which are in progress and the contribution to the preparation of 7 theses.

Also, a short professional film dedicated to the LIPES project has been elaborated to explain LIPES objectives and outcomes to a wide audience.
Progress beyond the state of the art at the end of the second reporting period is explained in line with initally stated challenges:

1. Enzyme: An enzyme has been selected (castor oil hydrolysis), being produced by Biocatalysts ; expected conversion rate reacched at lab scale, to be optimized at larger scales

2. Free Fatty Acid enzymatically produced: Demo scale production of free fatty acids from one type of oil performed (sunflower), still requires optimisation

3. Esters: Up-scaling of the process to pilot scale (200 L) and application of these esters in food, feed, cosmetics and lubricants markets: scheduled work

4. Dimers from Fatty Acid : C36 and C44 Hydrogenated dimers: Chemical Intermediates for Biomaterials: first production of C36 dimer fatty acids performed at laboratory scale. C36 dimer fatty acids from demo scale are currently being processed.

5. Polymers, Co-Polyesters, BioMaterial / Biobased polymers for automotive and electronic industries and application of these polymers in automotive and electric markets: C36 dimer fatty acid process performed at lab scale, upscaling to pilot ongoing / Commercial production scheduled after validation and approval; Initial experiments with C44 dimer fatty acids at lab scale have been performed, application tests scheduled
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