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Demonstration of an integrated innovative biorefinery for the transformation of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) into new BioBased products (URBIOFIN)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - URBIOFIN (Demonstration of an integrated innovative biorefinery for the transformation of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) into new BioBased products (URBIOFIN))

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2019-08-31

Due to the rapid growth of population, municipal solid waste (MSW) has contributed significantly to the total amount of waste generated by our society. Today in Europe, each inhabitant generates, in average, 0.5 tonnes of MSW per year, increasing at an annual rate of 10%. Around 40-50% of it correspond to organic waste. This organic fraction mainly contains carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, which are useful raw material that can be converted to valuable products. Its valorisation will help to solve environmental pollution but also contribute to the transition from a linear to a renewable circular economy. Digestion and composting have contributed to the reduction of the biodegradable fraction of MSW sent to landfill. The low economic value of compost and biogas is limiting the sustainable implementation of separate sourcing systems since increasing citizen environmental (waste) taxes is then needed to tackle important logistic costs. New biobased products can help to improve waste treatment environmental and socio-economical sustainability. The aim of URBIOFIN is to demonstrate the techno-economic and environmental viability of the conversion at semi-industrial scale (10 T/d) of the organic fraction of MSW (OFMSW) into: Chemical building blocks (bioethanol, volatile fatty acids, biogas), biopolymers (polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and biocomposites) and additives (microalgae hydrolisate for biofertilisers). By using the biorefinery concept applied to MSW (urban biorefinery), URBIOFIN will exploit the OFMSW as feedstock to produce different valuable marketable products for agriculture and cosmetics. URBIOFIN will offer a new feasible and more sustainable scenario alternative to the current treatment of the OFMSW.
WP1 Preliminary actions for the urban biorefinery design
In this work package, feedstock specifications for the core technologies of the project have been set. The preliminary actions have also included a characterization and selection of the best OFMSW for the URBIOFIN biorefinery, a general layout of the process and a preliminary LCA assessment. An in-depth study has allowed to establish the requirements that bioproducts which will be obtained from URBIOFIN Biorefinery should fulfil as well as assumptions for the preliminary model.

WP2 Conversion of OFMSW to bioethanol as building block for the production of bioethylene
Different parameters of the bioethanol production process from OFMSW have been optimized at lab scale. Based on the improvements of such parameters, an engineering study for PERSEO demo plant adaptation and the corresponding modifications was carried out, in order to reduce the operational costs of the process. New monitoring sensors and a plant control platform has been also studied. A new bioethanol-to-bioethylene demonstration module will be deployed downstream in the plant, of which engineering design has been started.

WP3 Conversion of OFMSW to VFAs for the production of PHA
The construction of module II has started. Continuous pilot trials on VFA production from OFMSW are being conducted in a smaller digester in order to provide hydrolysate for PHA production trials. Preliminary tests on the enrichment of biomass to produce scl-PHAs from synthetic VFA and real hydrolytic digestate has been performed and the facilities for scl- and mlc-PHA processes have been adapted. The conversion into lcl-FA of VFA has been tested in yeast cultures, which will be used for conversion into mcl-PHA.

WP4 Biogas bioconversion to biomethane and added value products
Scale-up design and equipment selection for two biogas valorization alternatives has been developed: i) biogas upgrading into biomethane using microalgae coupled with a biological step for siloxanes removal in two-phase partitioning bioreactors and ii) two-stage unit for the anoxic desulfurization of biogas followed by CH4 bioconversion into PHA. Preliminary physico-chemical and enzymatic pretreatments of mixed microalgae biomass grown on OFMSW-derived digestate succeeded in the production of an aminoacid-rich fertilizer.

WP5 Final applications and industrial validation of the biobased products developed
The activities developed have focused on the definition of the methodologies that will be developed for the production of the different bio-based products, including the formulations to meet technical, environmental and legal requirements for the targeted applications as well as tentative dates of materials supply. It has been also described the protocols for the validation trials including detailed information regarding the amount of materials needed, conditions, tentative schedule and deadlines.

WP6 Integration of the urban biorefinery. Economic, environmental and regulatory assessments
During this first reporting period, partners have been involved in the modelling and integration of the URBIOFIN processes included in the Modules I, II and III. Moreover, data have been collected to feed information for the LCA, LCC and TEA. Finally, effort has been put into the evaluation of the regulations involving the feedstocks, the processes and the products in the URBIOFIN project.

WP7 Communication, dissemination and exploitation activities
To maximise the impact of the project results, URBIOFIN uses different tools and channels i.e. social media (Twitter, LinkedIn), newsletters, publications, conferences, fairs and a project website to continuously communicate project information and to disseminate results to relevant stakeholders in the industry community, the scientific community, policy makers and the broad public. We have reached around 122,262 users through social media messages, 13,320 page views of the website, and we have met hundreds of people at 60 attended events.

WP8 Project management
Management started with the setting up of the management mechanisms, Steering Committee and Innovation Committee. It has consisted in project monitoring, meeting organization, internal and official reporting, risk management and assurance of Consortium-BBI-JU fluent communication. A relevant task has been the management of the amendments and effective resolution of the incidences occurred during the first reporting period.
URBIOFIN demonstration will show the progress beyond the state of the art in the following fields:
- Bioethanol production from the OFMSW and its use as chemical building block, where bioethanol produced from the OFMSW will be employed as a feedstock for the production of “second generation” bioethylene for gas ripening application.
- Production of VFA from anaerobic digestion of OFMSW and its elongation into MCFA to produce short chain and medium chain PHA biopolymers. PHA biopolymers represent a higher value product from two-step anaerobic digestion of OFMSW, instead of the traditional production of biogas for bioenergy generation.
- Biogas upgrading by microalgae photobioreactor for the production of pure biomethane, with the construction and operation of a high rate algal pond reactor. The upgraded biomethane will be further treated in a biological polishing unit aiming at removing volatile methyl siloxanes.
- Production of bio-fertilisers from microalgae and OFMSW. Microalgae grown on OFMSW-based digestate will demonstrate the potential of this biomass for the production of an aminoacid-rich intermediate product. The development of liquid and solid-state bio-based fertilisers will help to partially replace the commonly used mineral fertilisers.