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Integration of efficient downstreaM PRocessEs for Sugars and Sugar alcohols

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IMPRESS (Integration of efficient downstreaM PRocessEs for Sugars and Sugar alcohols)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

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 and monopropylene glycol 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 first reporting period, good progress has been 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. The new insights are both relevant for the Dawn process as well as for the Ray process. Multiple varying sugar samples have been tested by Lenntech for purification and de-watering purposes, with promising results. All of this work contributes to integrate a modular process including separation and purification steps to produce fodder yeast and xylitol form mixed sugar streams. Vogelbusch assessed multiple sugars streams produced by the Dawn process. The produced sugars streams are based on the use of both hard- and softwoods. The obtained lignin from the Dawn process has been used by Aalto for the research into nanospheres and for the production of activated carbon. The latter topic has successfully been achieved. The next step is to assess the lignin derived activated carbons into the developed adsorption equipment. At last, good collaboration and communication took place between Aalto and Avantium on the HCl research topic. The HCl research executed by Aalto will generate relevant insights that are applicable for the Dawn process as well as for further research related to the production of isosorbide based on wood.

Good progress has been made on different topics related to the Ray Technology™. At the start of the project, the opening of the Ray Technology™ demonstration plant took place in November '19.
One of the aims within the project is to purify different streams from the Ray Technology™. A dedicated high throughput liquid adsorption demonstration unit was build and tested by Avantium. A first set of process-relevant experiments for the purification of monoethylene glycol (MEG) took place. Also initial experiments with the use of Simulated Moving Bed technology (SMB) to purify erythritol and sorbitol took place by Knauer. Sulzer and Avantium are in a very good collaboration on distillation and very good progress has been made to work towards a continuous distillation column for the first commercial Ray Technology™ plant to purify MEG and monopropylene glycol (MPG).

In addition, different Conceptual Process Design’s (CPD's) have been developed by PDC and datasets for the different benchmark compounds have been generated by Sphera. PDC and Avantium will develop of CPD’s for the Dawn- and Ray Technology™ as well as with Vogelbusch about fermentation technologies. Following up, PDC and Sphera will integrate different technologies and to execute relevant Life Cycle Assessment studies (LCA's).

At last, a project website has been launched, as well as the project video all for the purpose of communication and dissemination. COVID-19 impacted the level of engagement regarding participation at different conferences, but despite the situation, good progress has been made on exploitation effort.
Expected results and state at the end of the project:
• Dawn Technology™ experienced some also Covid related challenges in the supply of bigger quantities of sugar syrup but novel technologies have been identified to purify the sugar samples. Sufficient progress has been made to scale up the technology and there is line of sight of its commercial developments
• Good progress was made with the Ray Technology™ and contributed to be able to conclude on the FEED phase by the end of the project to build the commercial demonstration plant
• Different hemicellulose derived sugar streams have been provided to Vogelbusch with the aim to prove biomass fermentation. This has successfully been proven for the production of fodder yeast. The next step is optimizing and upscaling of this process. In addition, additional streams can be assessed
• Different hemicellulose derived sugar streams have been provided to Vogelbusch with the aim to prove xylitol fermentation. Due to inhibitors present in the initial samples sent, progress was mediocre. However, the basis for analysis and needed separation process and downstream processes have been identified. The focus in reporting period 2 is to supply good quality of sugar samples and sufficient quantities
• Lenntech made good progress with the filtration experiments, relevant results have been generated. This lead to a refined approach to bring filtration technology at pilot scale. Initial experiments contributed to bring membrane distillation to pilot scale. The experimental path has been further clarified
• The SMB process exploited by Knauer, showed sufficient progress towards purifying streams coming from the Ray Technology™
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