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Adding high value to wasted raw material from pulping industry

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECOHELIX (Adding high value to wasted raw material from pulping industry)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2019-07-31

Ecohelix has developed a technology which transforms widely available, sustainable, pulp industry side stream material into high- performance polymers. Membrane filtration and biotechnology are applied, using proven large-scale processing techniques, to isolate and modify wood biorefinery derived hemicellulose and low molecular weight lignin. The technology has been verified both for production and as an end product (to TRL6).
The end product can replace petroleum-based products and foodcrop based products with a highly sustainable, biodegradable, high performance product which reduces CO2 emissions and adds value to the pulp industry. Ecohelix can tap into a large and stable availability of raw material that pulping processes create - and at the same time offer processing benefits for the mills.
A wide range of potential applications have been identified in the cosmetics, pulp and paper chemicals, packaging and construction industries. For certain applications, such as paper board chemicals and in cosmetics, tests demonstrate a significantly superior performance. The polymers can thus replace petroleum based and harmful substances in several customer products and result in substantial improvements in their manufacturing process. Ecohelix’s value chain involves close partnerships with both pulp mills and speciality chemicals producers.

The objectives of this project are to:
1. reach a strong understanding of the economic potential for the Ecohelix polymer
2. to define the optimal production processes and related costs
3. to refine the technical specifications for the first polymer products
3. form a clear vision of the business case as it relates to the key partnership relationships

Conclusions of the action: The performed work during the feasibility study gave us more insight on the technical and economical possibilities that we have created for our company and for the polymers that we will produce. We were able to deepen the cooperation with both the raw material producers as well as our customers. The coaching sessions with the EU appointed coach enabled us to clarify our chosen strategy and verify that the strategy fits the available business models on this value chain. The road to market continues with the support form of a granted EU financed project (Horizon 2020, BBI-JU) VEHICLE (grant agreement no 837866). The project will take our company through demo production towards establishing production of our polymers on the marketplace.
The work done during the SME-instrument (phase 1) project was divided in four different tasks:
• Task 1. Economic analysis
• Task 2. Technical assessment, processing
• Task 3. Technical assessment, polymer product
• Task 4. Value chain

The economic analysis gave us a deeper understanding on the two market areas that were chosen for this feasibility study. We were able to find the best strategies for the upcoming market entry by matching the best application potential with the market potential and growth expectations (within paper and board chemicals and cosmetics). The Ecohelix team will deepen the cooperation with the customers to start securing sales agreements while moving towards production.

The processing assessment concentrated on securing a high TRL processing setup on the different pre-hydrolysis (pulping) concepts. The host process integration effects were qualified and quantified (on certain aspects) for the purpose of setting up the demo processing unit design (which is a major part of our VEHICLE project). Risks and barriers for establishing the demo unit (and consequently the production unit) at the partner´s mill were identified. Mitigation of these aspects were put on place to enable a smooth installation of the unit at the mill.

The technical assessment of the polymer products concentrated on the technical performance and the possible barriers for market entry for the chosen market areas. Together with our customers, we were able to verify significantly superior performance of the Ecohelix polymers on the tested application areas. The identified barriers that lies mainly on regulatory and customer perception side will be overcome by addressing the regulatory rules and by a slight modification of our polymer that we produce.

This project has enabled the Ecohelix team and the cooperation partners to move much closer to an attractive business setup and towards establishing production of the Ecohelix polymers on the global marketplace.
Ecohelix technology is a novel enzymatic processing technique that is combined with membrane filtration. The outcome from the process is a renewable, high-performance polymer product with a low environmental impact. By replacing current products on the marketplace with high impact environmental profiles and products that contains harmful substances, the Ecohelix polymers can have a measurable effect on the cosmetics and packaging markets. There is a growing pressure on packaging companies to provide products with safer and more sustainable functional and barrier coating options. On the cosmetics market, ingredients that are safe and sustainably produced are desired by the consumer market. The Ecohelix polymers can provide all of these aspects while retaining a high performance on the formulates on these application areas.

The Ecohelix process can furthermore give benefits for the host process (where the Ecohelix polymers are isolated from) by removing emission causing as well as process imparing components. This can improve the product quality and increase the production rate of the host process and create substantial financial savings while reducing emissions.

The Ecohelix team expects to further verify the chosen application areas, identify and overcome the possible barriers for market entry and secure sales agreements for the polymers. The aim is also to deepen the business relation with the host mills and enter into agreements with the partners within the whole value chain.
Ecohelix core team