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Improve biorefinery operations through process intensification and new end products

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BioSPRINT (Improve biorefinery operations through process intensification and new end products)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2021-11-30

BioSPRINT aims to improve the efficiency of the purification and conversion of sugars in a biorefinery concept.

Lignocellulose is the biomass with the highest availability in the world, being of particular importance for the bioeconomy regarding production of bio-based chemicals and materials. Currently, process inefficiencies result in high cost regarding energy and resource use.
BioSPRINT brings together 13 key players who will focus on four activity areas: upstream purification, catalytic conversion, downstream purification, and polymerisation.

The EU-funded project aims to develop, test, and validate process intensification methods (up to TRL 4-5) to improve purification and conversion of the hemicelluloses fraction of lignocellulosic biomass such as hardwood and straw. Thus, the transformation into new bio-renewable and furan-based resins is enabled for novel polymeric applications and fossil-based polymers can be substituted.

The ultimate objective of BioSPRINT is to lead to a reduction in operation costs, feedstock, and energy resources, GHG emissions and higher yields, while increasing operation safety by concentrating on PI technologies which can intensify biorefining processing methods and create an integrated biorefinery concept.
BioSPRINT work is divided into 8 work packages. The main activities and results are described in the following.

The industrial relevant HMC-streams have been analysed in its composition and variability. Main focus was to quantify the monomeric and oligomeric sugar content and determine the degradation products present in each stream. Two precipitation techniques have been investigated (evaporative precipitation of lignin and antisolvent precipitation of C5 and C6 sugars). Membrane and filtration experiments have been performed to remove unwanted substances, to concentrate, and to purify the HMC streams for further processing. Regarding the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) two technologies, Spinning Disk Reactor (SDR) and Membrane Separation Unit (MSU) for intensification of the purification of HMC have been carried out. Work on the solvent and water recovery for the efficient circulation of these streams in the upstream purification and concentration of HMC streams have been initiated.

Catalyst using HTP and ML methods have been developed. In high throughput (HTP) testing, the preliminary screening of selected catalysts was conducted and the conversion of sugars, as well as selectivity and yield of 5-HMF and furfural were analysed. The development of ML models involved entailed performing descriptor clustering analysis and a dashboard to interpret the results. A microkinetic model for dehydration reactions of sugars dehydration, to integrate synthetic sugar mixtures, and to identify and study the effects of possible impurities and catalyst inhibitors has been developed. Development of extractive reaction intensification and identification of scale-up challenges were initiated.

A key challenge of Intensification of Downstream Purification is to achieve the separation of the furans (furfural, 5-HMF) from the extraction solvent used and from other by-products formed upstream in a reliable and efficient way, with the required product purity. The initial separation and purification scheme was proposed, and it will be further optimized with respect to solvent and furfural as well as 5-HMF extraction.

The initial work for a new generation of polymers was carried out and shows the starting point for the substitution of petrol-based standard chemicals in synthesis of phenolic resins and polyols from resole-, novolac- and Mannich-types. The patent and Intellectual Property (IP) situation to produce the polymers was investigated. The base work for promising processes to produce resin-like polymers with conventionally available 5-HMF and also furfural was used as replacement of formaldehyde, was accomplished. A literature review on the chemistry of reactions for making conventional novolac and resole resins and Mannich polyols to identify limitations and potential for intensification of each step in these processes was done and first preparation on the implementation of PI equipment initiated.

Simulation models of the existing biorefineries has been developed with data and feedback gather from partners, advisory board, and literature. The preparation of the improved process intensified biorefinery concept is in preparation.

The definitions, settings and system description of the life cycle sustainability assessment were drafted and are continuously updated. The tasks on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Techno-Economic-Assessement (TEA), socio-economic and process and product safety assessments have been initiated.

Flyer, social media and website have been created. Continuously social media posts, newsletter and other D&C activities are done to update the interested parties and followers. A first webinar was held in November 2021 on “PI technologies for separation and solid handling processes”.

Project, technical, quality, risk, IPR and data management procedures have been implemented. The project is on-going as planned and within schedule. Covid-19 impacts had impact on several tasks and led to minor delays.
BioSPRINT develops integrated and intensified biorefining technologies and processes and validate the flexibility and modularity of the BioSPRINT for industrial relevant streams. Will also maximise the impact, while facilitating the integration and scale up into existing processes.
Aims to reduce the feedstock-to-waste and waste-to-energy flows in the biorefinery context. In particular, BioSPRINT will investigate, develop and facilitate several processing technologies such as upstream purification, catalytic conversion, downstream purification, and polymerisation.
An intensified and integrated purification strategy leveraging innovative anti-solvent precipitation and membrane separation methods to enhance the purification and concentration of the C5 and C6 sugars, increase the selectivity of the process, minimise the amount of solvent used, and intensify the material and energy efficiency.
Intensified dehydration of sugars into 5-HMF and furfural, to minimize further downstream purification needs.
Novel, intensified and integrated catalytic processes for dehydration of C5 and C6 HMC sugars into monomers for bio-based polymers by the development and formulation of catalysts with maximum conversion and selectivity.
Process intensification and recovery of reactive intermediate furans through extractive-reaction methods to isolate the reaction products from the reaction medium in situ.
Integration of intensified reactor and downstream purification to create a continuous processing cascade.
Intensified polymerisation of furan-based derivatives into resins and polyols to minimise further downstream purification needs.
New end-products, derived from the HMC-stream sugar fractions into 5-HMF and furfural polymers for several applications such as composite wood boards and foams.
Validation of the sensibility and transferability of developed intensification methods for multiple feedstocks.
A CWA with CENELEC will be established based on the activities of BioSPRINT to provide guidance for stakeholders.