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Valorise Extensive quantities of HemIcellulosic and Cellulosic sugars from Lignocellulosic biomass into high-value End products

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VEHICLE (Valorise Extensive quantities of HemIcellulosic and Cellulosic sugars from Lignocellulosic biomass into high-value End products)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-10-31

The VEHICLE project demonstrates novel technologies for providing and valorizing low value sugar streams. The industry consortium “VEHICLE” will develop and demonstrate technologies in industrial scale that utilise 100% plant-based chemicals produced from renewable raw materials like lignocellulosic biomass from pulp mills and non-food feedstock from biorefineries. The consortium will establish new value chains throughout Europe to supply these plant-based chemicals and materials into large array of industrial applications and consumer products like packaging applications, pulp and paper products and bioplastics-based consumer goods. Its objective is to enhance the business potential of both existing and future European biorefineries and other bioeconomy companies as well as create economic benefits and new jobs in their value chains.
The VEHICLE has advanced towards its main goals as follows:
• Demonstrating valorisation of dilute hemicellulose-containing prehydrolysate streams from pulp mills, which are currently waste streams with little value: Ecohelix has built a demo production unit at the Domsjö mill and received permits from the municipality´s authorities, so that the production can commence in the beginning of 2021. MetGen will address the downstream part of the pre-hydrolysate by applying extremozyme laccases for detoxification of hemicellulose stream.
• Widening the business and market opportunities of existing biorefinery investments by demonstrating the applicability of their sugar streams in several downstream options: Sugar streams will be provided by Avantium and Graanul from their demonstration and flagship facilities. Avantium has opened its Ray demonstration plant and started the first test runs of MEG / MPG production. Graanul has achieved scale-up in its biorefinery and can now ship ton-scale material to partners for larger scale trials. Novamont and Metgen have already validated applicability of the sugar streams for their processes.
• Demonstrating the use of hemicellulose polymers from prehydrolysis streams in different pulp and paper product applications: Kemira has identified and studied the performance of Ecohelix polymer in varying paper and board applications. The potential of Ecohelix polymer has been proven by filing three patent applications.
• Demonstrating conversion of hemicellulose and cellulose based sugars into intermediate and building block chemicals – glycols, diols and diacids – as well as into specialty sugars (glucosone, fructose): MetGen has already demonstrated a full glucose to glucosone conversion for Graanul’s hydrolysate.
Key exploitable results during the first reporting period include process and plant optimisations, sugar formulations, inventions with three patent applications filed and one under filing, and scientific conference presentation.

The VEHICLE project demonstrates the valorisation of hemicelluloses from pulping process side streams as well as wood fractionated with novel technologies, resulting in new bio-based building blocks, new bio-based materials and new bio-based consumer products.

Expected impacts include:
- Enabling pulp mills to recover higher value and better sustainability for their existing capacity by valorising their hemicellulose-containing side (waste) streams that currently have no or low value-added use
- Enabling 2G biorefining to guarantee a higher valorisation of its hemicellulose and cellulose based by-products in a broader spectrum of conversion routes into possible end products, thus increasing their business potential and decreasing risks
- Enabling even >90% conversion of hemicellulose-based materials into end products, expanding the existing biorefining feedstock base significantly
- Demonstrating up to nine value chains and nine end-products, with standalone routes and in combinations towards the separate markets, with the market size for each main product group in the scale of billions of euros annually
- Demonstrating the end products in VEHICLE to answer to all key market requirements and be comparable to existing alternatives in terms of technical performance and costs. Furthermore, their sustainability is far superior compared to the fossil- or food-based conventional products, enabling significant growth opportunities for the partner companies and addressing the major societal challenge.
- Linking tightly with several large-scale European projects, maximising the impacts of previous European investments

Expected environmental impacts include:
- Replacing oil-based materials in pulp and paper applications with hemicellulose polymers. The replacement polymers will be fully biodegradable while not competing with resources for food and feed production.
- Converting a large portion of the organic material from pulp mills, currently considered a waste product, into valuable products by valorising a side-stream.
- Reducing water consumption substantially – by up to 70 percent – with associated improvements in energy consumption. This will improve the economics of the process and reduce its environmental impact.
- Reducing CO2 emissions. Renewable feedstocks have a smaller environmental footprint and can replace fossil-based building block production with hemicellulose-derived alternatives and replace food-based starches currently used in paper manufacturing.
VEHICLE Concept with intermediate and end products