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An integrated biorefinery for the conversion of dairy side streams to high value bio-based chemicals

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AgriChemWhey (An integrated biorefinery for the conversion of dairy side streams to high value bio-based chemicals)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-06-30

The European dairy industry processes millions of tonnes of whey annually to produce whey proteins for human and animal nutrition, lactose, and whey powders. Whey permeate (WP) and Delactosed whey permeate (DLP) are major side-streams of dairy processing and represent a key challenge for the dairy industry due to a lack of reliability in current disposal routes and create a sustainability bottleneck for the expansion of milk production in Europe. The AgriChemWhey project will integrate industrial circularity by taking these low value by-products from the dairy processing industry and converting them into several added value products for growing global markets including lactic acid, polylactic acid, minerals for human nutrition and bio-based fertilizer. The new technology used for the AgriChemWhey process will provide both the dairy industry and wider society with an opportunity for greater resource efficiency.

AgriChemWhey overall objective is to build a first-of-a-kind industrial-scale and economically successful biorefinery with integrated symbiotic industrial and agricultural value chains to valorise dairy waste, and thus specifically to:

• Optimise and scale-up process biorefinery technologies
• Establish a new dairy processing by-products to high value-added products value chain
• Establish industrial symbiosis with local partners to valorise side streams arising from the biorefinery process
• Ensure techno-economic viability and successful long-term commercial operation of the biorefinery
• Develop a blueprint for replication of the AgriChemWhey model in other regions across Europe

AgriChemWhey represents a significant step change in current whey processing techniques and industrial symbiosis that inspires the creation of new value chains. It will underpin the growth of a more sustainable European dairy industry through innovation and knowledge exchange, serving as a model for sustainable growth in dairy output in the EU and globally. AgriChemWhey has the potential for replication in other regions across Europe, contributing towards the development of the European bio-economy to promote rural growth, competitiveness and job creation and aligning with European sustainability targets.
During the first 18 months of the project partners started to work on their tasks and the team achieved significant results in relation to process integration, optimisation and scale-up. This first period of the project has been devoted to the following main activities:
• The development of a pilot plant to replicate the complex process and provide valuable data to facilitate the detailed design of the industrial biorefinery. The pilot plant was installed and commissioned during 2018.
• Two separate laboratories were constructed and installed in the pilot plant – a microbiology lab to propagate the bacteria and an analytical chemistry lab for sample analysis.
• Regular updates of the process description occurred during the last 18 months leading to a defined process. The required data has been generated and is being used to optimise the design of the industrial bio-refinery by identifying the process and infrastructure requirements. Models have been developed to identify requirements for the process and associated services. Data from the pilot trials and models have been applied to the design of the industrial scale plant.
• Basic engineering works have been completed on the industrial scale plant. The civil design works are completed; plant buildings have been designed and planning permission has been granted
• Optimisation of the upstream processing of WP, DLP and a mixture of both to develop a lower energy, higher efficiency platform for a predictable fermentation substrate.
• Feedstock characterisation testing was developed in the laboratory and a comprehensive technical review of potential WP and DLP feedstock material was completed.
• Ongoing work and refinement of the upstream TruCal process and recovery to validate the calcium phosphate production process from WP and DLP pre-treatment .
• Optimisation of fermentation yield with individual WP’s and DLP’s as well as combinations of WP’s and DLP’s is in progress.
• The final part of the ACW integrated process is the downstream recovery and purification of lactic acid. Purification of lactic acid post fermentation is complex and trials have been conducted to help identify the most cost effective process steps to improve overall process economics and the quality and purity of lactic acid obtained.
• Gypsum is produced as an AgriChemWhey side stream during the downstream process and characterisation work on the chemical, physical and biological properties of this product is in progress
• Lab and Pilot Scale distillation trials - refined the unit and process specifications for the LA concentration and evaporation part to obtain pure LA monomers.
• A communication and dissemination and exploitation plan was developed during the last 18 months.
• To foster collaboration in the Bioeconomy sector ACW has been very well represented over the past 18 months at various conferences, events and workshops.
This project is exploring how to convert undervalued dairy side-streams and will involve the development of a new state-of-the-art, flagship bio-refinery with a world-first process for converting low value side-streams from the dairy industry into high value bio-based products including biodegradable plastics. AgriChemWhey will investigate the techno-economic viability of such innovative whey residues-to-lactic acid biorefinery technology and will establish a new value chain for industrial symbiosis with other local companies for the production of high-value sustainable food and feed products from other side streams, as an enhanced circular bioeconomy approach to agriculture and agri-food waste.
Expected results and Potential Impacts:
• Rural community development through rural job creation, new partnerships and business opportunities across the region
• Circular bioeconomy approach for the dairy industry
• Establishing industrial symbiosis with local partners to valorise side streams
• Establishment of a new dairy processing by-products to high value-added products value chain
• The exploitation of a readily available second generation resource for the production of a high value chemical which is used as a food and feed ingredient and as a building block for biodegradable polymer PLA.
• Positive impact on EU trade balance through greater resource efficiency resulting in the red t of the European bioeconomy to promote rural growth, competitiveness and job creation.uction of EU LA imports and the potential to turn Europe into a net exporter of LA
• AgriChemWhey will also partner with Model Demonstrator Regions for sustainable chemicals in South East Ireland (Tipperary County Council) and Wallonia Belgium (GreenWin) to look at policy development for market uptake of bio-based products with a focus on AgriChemWhey products to accelerate the route to market. AgriChemWhey will serve as a flagship for Europe’s growing bioeconomy, contributing towards a more resource efficient European dairy sector with enormous replication potential in other rural areas across Europe. By developing a blueprint for this economic sustainability concept and replication plans for other regions across Europe, this will maximise both short- and long-term impacts, contributing towards the development
Sustainable Dairy Bioeconomy