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

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-04-30

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 materials 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 (PHAs) and biocomposites) and additives (microalgae hydrolysate 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
Feedstock specifications for the technologies of the project were set. The preliminary actions included a characterization of OFMSW, a general layout of the process and a preliminary LCA assessment. An in-depth study allowed to establish the requirements that URBIOFIN bioproducts 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 were optimized at lab scale. Based on this, an engineering study for PERSEO demo plant adaptation and the corresponding modifications were carried out, in order to reduce the operational costs of the process. The demo activities for the bioethanol production from OFMSW has progressed in PERSEO plant, applying the optimized conditions. New monitoring sensors and a plant control platform were studied and implemented. A new bioethanol-to-bioethylene demo module was designed, constructed and installed in the plant.

WP3 Conversion of OFMSW to VFAs for the production of PHA
The construction of the 2-phase anaerobic digestion plant was completed and both digesters are fed on a daily basis. Different trials at pilot-scale to optimize the production of scl-PHAs were conducted. The organic loading rate during the enrichment step was increased to the highest values permitted by the microbial cultures without inhibition. The potential of different VFA-rich digestates to enrich PHA-producing cultures and accumulate biopolymers was evaluated. Mcl-PHA scale up fermentation was performed up to 20 m3 to produce mcl-PHA from real VFA-containing anaerobic digestate of OFMSW.

WP4 Biogas bioconversion to biomethane and added value products
The construction of the pilot-scale plants of the two biogas valorisation alternatives has been completed and demo activities are in progress: i) biogas upgrading into biomethane using a microalgae-bacteria consortium coupled with a biological step for siloxanes removal in a two-phase partitioning bioreactor, and ii) two-stage unit for the anoxic desulfurization of biogas followed by CH4 bioconversion into PHA.

WP5 Final applications and industrial validation of the biobased products developed
The activities developed have been focused on the definition of the methodologies that will be developed for the production of the different final bio-based products and in the description of the protocols for the validation trials. Additionally, preliminary production trials have been done with analogous commercial materials to obtain preliminary bio-based products serving as experimental basis and helping to optimize the production processes

WP6 Integration of the urban biorefinery. Economic, environmental and regulatory assessments
The biorefinery model has been updated and further developed, incorporating new process advances and results from lab and demonstration scale activities undertaken by the partners. 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, newsletters, publications, conferences, fairs and a project website to continuously communicate project information and to disseminate results to relevant stakeholders. The 1st URBIOFIN virtual workshop was conducted in June 2020. 6 publications including scientific articles and book chapters were published. The Consortium was granted the coaching services from the Exploitation Booster. Until now URBIOFIN has reached around 84,266 users through social media messages, 20,990 webpage views and we have met hundreds of people at 48 attended events.

WP8 Project management
Management activities have been specially addressed to ensure fulfilment of deadlines and close control of the progress of the project, due to COVID-19. It has consisted in project monitoring, meetings organization, internal and official reporting, risk management and assurance of Consortium-BBIJU fluent communication. A relevant task was the management of amendments and effective resolution of the incidences occurred.
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.
CIAM Plant