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Integration of efficient downstreaM PRocessEs for Sugars and Sugar alcohols

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - IMPRESS (Integration of efficient downstreaM PRocessEs for Sugars and Sugar alcohols)

Reporting period: 2021-03-01 to 2022-08-31

The increased demand for sustainability due to increased population and finite natural resources, has been the main driver for the development of biorefinery industry. The introduction of new bioproducts to the market requires combining biomass sourcing, suitable technologies, and the end-product market successfully. Main challenges related to biorefineries is the development of a commercial efficient and controlled all-purpose pretreatment process combined with the use of all process streams for high-value products. For example, lignin is still mostly burned and hemicelluloses are converted into fuels. Finding an efficient pretreatment technology that can handle several feedstock types and comprehensive utilization of all process streams by novel types of downstream processes will be the key for a profitable production of bio-based chemicals.

The IMPRESS project will demonstrate a new hybrid biorefinery process for the first time, integrating disruptive upstream and downstream technologies developed by the project partners. A main objective of the project is to develop and upscale separation and purification methods for the upstream process and modular downstream processes. New purification and separation methods will enable to produce new products, like xylitol, erythritol, bio-based ultra pure monoethylene glycol (MEG) and monopropylene glycol (MPG) and lignin derived activated carbon. All the relevant process routes developed and up-scaled in the project will be integrated to the IMPRESS concept by executing a Conceptual Process Design (CPD) of the different unit operations and then the CPD of integrated IMPRESS concept. It’s expected that the new purification and separation methods, and new high value products combined with benefits deriving from the integration will decrease OPEX by by 25 % and CAPEX by 20 %. In addition, the GHG emissions are expected to decrease more than 20 %. The decrease of CAPEX and OPEX will be calculated by CPD and the environmental performance of the IMPRESS concept and the developed products are evaluated by performing a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The results of the project and benefits of the IMPRESS concept will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders by preparing education modules concerning individual unit operations, the integrated process, and methodology such as LCA that will be easily integrated in existing curricula and modules for undergraduate level and lifelong learning programmes.
During the PR1, good progress was made on the identification of needed and relevant separation, purification and analytical methods for the Dawn upstream process. New relevant insights were generated for the purification of sugars and were relevant for the Dawn/Ray process. Multiple sugar samples were tested by Lenntech for purification and de-watering purposes. All of this work contributed to integrate a modular process including separation and purification steps to produce fodder yeast and xylitol from mixed sugar streams. Vogelbusch assessed multiple Dawn sugars streams. The Dawn lignin was used for conversion into nanospheres by Aalto and for activated carbon production.
Good progress was made on different topics related to the Ray Technology™. A dedicated high-throughput liquid adsorption demonstration unit was built and tested by Avantium. The first set of process-relevant experiments for MEG purification took place. Proof-of-concept study with Simulated Moving Bed technology (SMB) to purify erythritol and sorbitol took place by Knauer. Good progress was made by Sulzer and Avantium to work towards a continuous distillation column for the first commercial Ray Technology™ plant to purify MEG/MPG.
Different CPD's were developed by PDC and datasets for the different benchmark compounds were generated by Sphera. A project website was launched and video was created for communication/dissemination. COVID-19 impacted the level of engagement regarding participation at different conferences, but despite the situation, good progress was made on exploitation effort.

During the PR2, Avantium focused on the performance of the Dawn TechnologyTM demonstration plant by optimizing the production output. Some of the generated streams were purified by Lenntech to condition the sugars for application testing, e.g. Avantium’s conversion of sugars to MEG/MPG and for biomass and xylitol production by Vogelbusch. The achieved sugar purification was satisfactory for Ray TechnologyTM testing and was also for applications from Vogelbusch, who was supplied with sugar samples of Avantium and Graanul (renamed to Fibenol). Avantium put effort on the operation and upgrade of the Ray TechnologyTM demonstration plant, and production of glycols and optimization of this process continues, in order to deliver samples to partners e.g. Sulzer for validation tests of MEG/MPG solutions. Several partners continue developing the purification of various products of the IMPRESS process scheme.

The key outcomes within the three main processing and product streams of IMPRESS are as follows:
- Crude lignin: Dawn Lignin streams successfully produced by the Avantium Dawn TechnologyTM Demonstration Plant and supplied to partners for testing. From crude lignin, activated carbon was produced successfully and the process of producing lignin nanoparticles was developed and optimised by Aalto.
- Mixed sugars (C5/C6) and glucose: The purity of the Dawn sugars was improved by Lenntech to make then useful for other partners and relevant technologies within the sugar value chain. Fermentation technologies were developed for xylitol and fodder yeast and purification processes for other sugar streams of interest.
PDC has developed different CPD's. Sphera has developed and established LCA datasets for benchmark compounds and wood feedstocks. The partners have actively disseminated project results in conferences, social media, webinars and videos. With XAMK´s lead, the consortium is developing an online learning platform with educational material of the project.
Expected results and state at the end of the project:
• Dawn Technology™ to be in Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) phase: Techno-economic considerations have generated more information for the process scope. Additional experimental work needs to be done before entering the EPC phase
• Good progress has been made with the Ray Technology™, which will generate valuable input for the FEED phase by the end of the project for building the commercial demonstration plant
• Different hemicellulose derived sugar streams have been provided to Vogelbusch for proving biomass fermentation. Know-how about the fermentation of different hemicellulose hydrolysates has been developed successfully, and batch and fed-batch fermentation technologies have been advanced
• Different hemicellulose derived sugar streams have been provided to Vogelbusch with the aim to prove xylitol fermentation. The key process steps are under development, with the expectation that a plant concept will be available at the end of the project
• Lenntech has made good progress with the filtration experiments, leading to a refined approach to bringing filtration technology at a pilot scale, as a part of the IMPRESS process. These will inform decisions on industrial scale plant feasibility and design
• The SMB process exploited by Knauer, has shown sufficient progress towards purifying of Xylitol from fermentation process by Vogelbusch
IMPRESS - The Integrated Biorefinery Process
IMPRESS website
IMPRESS Work Packages
IMPRESS leaflet, pages 1 and 4
IMPRESS leaflet, pages 2-3
IMPRESS - Towards a fossil-free future
IMPRESS - email signature banner
IMPRESS Project H2020 video
IMPRESS Consortium