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BIOtechnological processes based on microbial platforms for the CONversion of CO2 from ironsteel industry into commodities for chemicals and plastics

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BIOCONCO2 (BIOtechnological processes based on microbial platforms for the CONversion of CO2 from ironsteel industry into commodities for chemicals and plastics)

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

The EU chemical industry relies heavily on non-renewable fossil resources as raw materials, power and fuel, being one of the main industrial sectors contributing to CO2 emissions and worldwide it currently generates about 6.7% of the total CO2 emissions. The dependence of the chemical industry on fossil resources must be reduced and it is necessary to develop environmentally friendly, sustainable and economically feasible processes to produce chemicals. Moreover, the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) must be reduced to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming.
BIOCON-CO2 focuses on biotechnological processes for the valorisation of industrial CO2-containing gases from iron and steel into chemicals, reducing the environmental impact compared to the current production technologies. BIOCON-CO2 will develop a flexible platform for the cost-efficient utilization of CO2 as C1-synthetic building block. BIOCON-CO2 aims at consuming significant amounts of CO2 as a feedstock through low energy synthesis of four key platform chemicals (ALC, 3-HP, formic acid, and lactic acid). The aim is to capture at least 4% of the total market share of these molecules at midterm (1.4 Mtonnes CO2/year) and 10% at long term (3.5 Mtonnes CO2/year).
The work carried out during the first reporting period towards the achievement of each specific objective is given below:
• Creation of a database of gas composition
The CO2-producing industrial partners (Arcelormittal, Nesher and Laborelec Engie), have analysed and integrated statistics of gaseous effluents from different gas streams. This database has been shared with the rest of the project beneficiaries and is available within the consortium for modelling, lab-scale and pilot scale studies on relevant WPs (WP2-7).
• CO2 solubilisation technologies.
Flexible technologies and strategies for increasing CO2 solubility, applicable to the different types of microorganisms and enzymes have been developed.
AVT.BioVT has installed and is testing the safety system for pressurised fermentation processes to ensure safe operation with toxic and explosive gases such as CO2, CO and H2. AVT.BioVT has also developed pre-culture and monitoring device that will be used for characterizing the cultivation system where up to 4 gases in flexible compositions can be used as in-gas.
LEITAT is working in the design of the fixed bed trickle reactor in downward system, and the development of advanced packing materials that favour adhesion, growing and biofilm formation. Lastly, the increase in solubilization of CO2 using carbonic anhydrase has being investigated. In collaboration with RUG, a first round of 8 mutants has been selected for increase in stability.
• Bioprocess development.
The partners responsible for the development of the 4 microbial Cell Factories (Fraunhofer, LEITAT, UAB, Wageningen, RUG) have defined the gas requirements and potential boundaries for the bioconversion processes.
RUG has been working in the development of more robust LDH, ADH and PDC for the production of lactic acid. Regarding LDH, Amongst the screened mutants, one with an increased Tm (from 63ºC 71ºC) has been obtained.
BIOCON-CO2 is expecting to capture 4% of the market volume of these chemicals (ALC, 3-HP, formic acid, and lactic acid) at medium term (5 years after the industrial implementation) and 10% of the market share at long term (10 years), i.e. around 1.4Mtonne CO2/year and 3.5Mtonne CO2/year (respectively) would be consumed (3% and 48% of global and European iron&steel industry CO2 emissions, respectively). Implementing BIOCON-CO2 technologies will allow regions with traditional heavy industries and which do not have to be rich in biomass to develop new socio-economic opportunities and at the same time to reduce GHG emissions following a circular economy approach.
Benefits of this model will be tangible on the increment of the quality of air and consequently of the environment. Moreover, the use of CO2 to produce chemicals will reduce toxic releases both by its consumption and by decreasing the use (and dependence) of fossil resources for chemicals and plastics synthesis. In addition, BIOCON-CO2 guarantees the utilization of sustainable materials in the elaboration process of the targeted products, allowing the availability of more eco-friendly products to end-users, thus moving the traditional chemical and plastic industry towards one position more green promoting the principles of circular economy promoted by the EU.