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Solaris energy tobacco for the creation of a European sustainable biojet fuel value chain

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SOLARIS (Solaris energy tobacco for the creation of a European sustainable biojet fuel value chain)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-08-31

Solaris is a patented variety of tobacco plant specifically targeted as feedstock for second generation biofuel: nicotine free, non-GMO, producing oil-containing seeds, no food competing, globally available and cultivable in Europe. Solaris allows the highest oil productivity of all oil producing crops, only second to palm: double than rapeseed and jatropha. It is cultivable in Europe, which has strong tobacco cultivation experience, while other second-generation crops are not. It is fully sustainable: Solaris biojet can reach 83% CO2 reduction compared to fossil jet fuel.
Furthermore if the Minimum Value Product (MVP) is the vegetable oil extracted from Solaris seeds, to be used as raw material for the production of HVO all the by-products have a commercial value: biomass for cogeneration or biogas production, seed cake for animal feeding and dry fibres for pulp and paper industry
Idroedil intends to implement the first integrated value chain for the production of sustainable drop-in biofuels in those European countries with long tobacco growing tradition, through:
• the creation of an industrially viable agronomic process and equipment; the optimization of the cultivation process with industrial standards was achieved through the design and development of industrial-ready prototypes of agronomic machines optimizing costs and yields, and through the demonstration of the industrial agronomic operations in the pilot phase performed in Italy on a 6-hectare field.

• the creation of certified and optimized value chain; this passed through validation of the green biodiesel and biofuel from the Toboil using the Ecofining process operated by ENI and through the quantification and valorization of by-products to create the complete product value chain;

• The demonstration of the industrial viability of the Solaris process; this was achieved through the validation of the initial feasibility study figures, the verification of agronomic costs and prices, and the definition of a commercial plan and a collaboration agreement to prepare the market launch, in collaboration with ENI, Boeing and other commercial partners interested in the Solaris product.
Solaris project started its activities in August 2017 when the team based in the Netherlands, Italy and South Africa started elaborating the data and practical experience gained during the years of work carried out in South Africa to refine the Agronomic protocol for the optimization of Solaris cultivation ion Europe. Information has been also collected from a limited preliminary cultivation test carried out in the previous season (March-October 2017) in Poiana Maggiore (Italy).
WP1: a crucial step at the beginning of the project concerned the definition of technical requirements for the agricultural machines.

The existing agronomic protocol for the Solaris cultivation has been refined and the machineries for cultivation, harvesting, post treatment of the seedpods and seeds have been rethought to address the needs of the Solaris cultivation and respond to the needs of the farmers in terms of flexibility and cost effectiveness.
WP2: the Solaris Pilot 2 cultivation was started in March 2018 on a 6-hectare field in Pojana Maggiore (Italy). Following to the nursery phase the transplanting of the seedlings to the field took place in May 2018. The results of the pilot have been collected, the agronomic costs for each operation estimated, and a total cost for the cultivation was derived.
In parallel, the identification of possible by-products and alternative uses of Solaris or parts of the harvest has been recognized by Idroedil and Sunchem top management as particularly strategical for Solaris value chain so that relevant effort was devoted to the study and technical-economical assessment of by-products and bio-fuels. Different application scenarios were introduced and evaluated as for feasibility and profitability, and relevant results obtained in WP3.
On the dissemination and communication side, a well-defined plan has been developed, a web site has been set up and a social media campaign started. Several conferences have been attended to present Solaris objectives and perspectives. Finally, intense networking activities led to the definition of a preliminary agreement for the creation of the Italian integrated value chain for Jet bio-fuel.
At the end of the project, the efforts devoted to strengthening the relationships with ENI and Boeing has led to the consolidation and signature of a collaboration agreement with these major players and with other key partners like the companies Re-Cord and Deltafina.
Edible oils represent the most economically viable option as feedstock for HVO production. Food crops constitute the largest share of feedstock used (about 80%): mainly palm oil and soybean oil. Import of palm oil has raised several concerns for what concerns deforestation: the major drawback of oil palm plantations is that they are developed in low lying, wet, tropical areas, causing loss of biodiversity as forest is cleared for palm plantation.
Competition with food production causes increase of food price, exploitation of fertile lands for crop cultivation, mass exodus of operators and a consequent deficit in local food production.The only way of mitigating this risk is using alternative feedstock based on non-edible materials.
SOLARIS is the most productive globally available second-generation feedstock for HVO production able to find a solutions for the above mentioned market limitations.
The strength point of Solaris under socio-economic point of view are:
SOLARIS is fully sustainable
•No food crop,
•GMO Free: Solaris has been registered as GMO free unique variety at Ministry of Agriculture in Italy – March 28, 2011.
• Solaris based jet fuel production, in an optimized supply chain, can save up to 83%, CO2 life cycle reduction compared to fossil jet fuel.
SOLARIS project has furthermore the ambition to create a sustainable development both for advanced agriculture and for rural realities that base their economy on agriculture, creating a sustainable integrated value chain in fact :
• is an extremely robust plant: It can grow in very different climate and soil conditions and can be cultivated also on marginal or not cultivated lands in many areas of the world without replacing fertile lands.
• allows the highest oil productivity per hectare of all oil producing crops in Europe, only second to palm oil at global level: double than rapeseed and jatropha in the same climatic conditions
• can be used to for the diversification of crops lowering risks linked to the weather extremes,insect or disease .
• can be placed for different application and different outlet markets as renewable diesel for marine industry, jet fuel, biogas, animal feed.
Tagliafiori machine
Pilot 2 cultivation
Dried seedpods
Vignoli machine
Solaris cultivation