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Pilot plant for environmentally friendly animal by-products industries

Final Report Summary - PILOT-ABP (Pilot plant for environmentally friendly animal by-products industries)

Executive Summary:
PILOT-ABP project aimed at developing new eco-innovative technologies associated to the animal by-products process, which allow on the one hand an environmental improvement of the process, thanks to a more efficient consumption of the energy used in the process and a better recovery of raw materials, with a related decreasing in wastes production, and on the other hand an increasing of the added value of the obtained products which leads to a better financial profitability of SMEs.

In this sense, within PILOT ABP project the feasibility of the several processes and products has been demonstrated at semi-industrial scale through the design and construction of three pilot plants where the operation conditions have been also optimised. More precisely the following marketable results have been achieved:

- Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) pyrolysis as new technology for valorisation of ABP wastes where a biocrude with high caloric value is obtained, as an alternative renewable energy source
- Short path distillation (SPD) as new technology for valorisation of fatty acids to obtain high value oils for different applications, such as food and pet cosmetics.
- Enzymatic hydrolysis as new technology for valorisation of processed animal proteins (PAP) allowing the production of a broad range of collagen based products as biopolymers with high market demand, for different intended applications (functional chemicals, fertilisers, etc.)

What is more, Pilot-ABP project represents innovative business opportunities. A wide range of industrial applications for each pilot plant have been identified. Initially main sectors of application will be those covered by the participant SMEs, but all of them believe that there will be an increase in their products portfolio in the short and medium term, with innovative industrial applications and products thanks to the results of the project.


PROJECT CONSORTIUM:

PILOT ABP is an eco-innovative demonstration project, where SMEs participating in the Consortium have shown close cooperation from the beginning and throughout the project lifetime to achieve the project objectives, ensuring that the industry needs are always being considered as a priority goal: GREENE (Spain), AMEK (Italy), TYDOCK PHARMA (Italy), CARNAD (Denmark).

PILOT ABP project is managed by INESCOP, Center of Innovation and Technology, who has also been Technical Coordinator and responsible for the research team. Said team was comprised of three well-known RTD performers leading the research work, from the point of view of the user and/or market needs and application possibilities of four SMEs, who ensured that final results are feasible and meet the market expectations: INESCOP (Spain); University of Alicante, UA (Spain) and Danish Technologist Institute, DTI (Denmark).

Project website: http://pilot-abp.eu

Project Context and Objectives:
Rendering industries are considered as high strategic environmental value enterprises, considering that they turn animal by-products into useful materials which would otherwise turn into waste of difficult disposal. In addition, animal by-products recovery provides savings across the supply chain meaning cheaper disposal costs for producers and lower prices for consumers. Indeed, nowadays, rendering industries contribute to improve the competitiveness of the EU meat and farming sector.

In the EU, over 20 MMT of ABPs emerge annually from slaughterhouses, plants producing food for human consumption, dairies and as fallen stock from farms. It has been estimated that during the slaughtering of pigs and cattle approximately 25 % and 50 % respectively of the live weight of the animal is not used for human consumption and, therefore, must be disposed of or, recovered and reused. ABPs can spread animal diseases (e.g. BSE) or chemical contaminants (e.g. dioxins) and can be dangerous to animal and human health if not properly disposed of. EU rules regulate their movement, processing and disposal. More precisely, Regulations 2009/1069/EC and 2011/142/EC set out health rules concerning ABPs not intended for human consumption which are classified into three categories depending on the level of risk (1 to 3).

Rendering process uses heat and pressure to sterilise and stabilise animal by products, making them suitable for storage and reprocessing for other uses. Two main products are produced, fat and protein, how this material is further used depends on the risk category.

As a result of this recovery, animal by-products from slaughterhouses used to provide a valuable source of this industry income, since most of them, once processed, were important ingredients of animal feed. Nevertheless, in recent years, especially because of the burden of BSE, this application has been restricted in the European Union and, as a consequence, the value of ABPs has reduced substantially and much of the material previously used is now disposed of as waste.

For that reasons, the PILOT-ABP project aimed at developing new eco-innovative technologies associated to the animal by-products process, which allow on one hand an environmental improvement of the process, thanks to a more efficient consumption of the energy used in the process and a better recovery of raw materials, with a related decreasing in wastes production; and on the other hand, an increasing of the added value of the obtained products in order to improve European SMEs’ competitiveness.

Therefore, the specific objectives of the PILOT ABP project have been:

- Application of low temperature pyrolysis techniques to ABP materials for obtaining mainly bio oil, as a source of chemical products, and coal for reducing the consumption of natural energy sources.

- Application of new extraction technologies in order to obtain animal oils with higher added value from fats addressed to the food and cosmetic sectors.

- Obtaining of protein based products such as gelatine and collagen derivatives for manufacturing functional and biodegradable biopolymers for different intended applications.

In order to achieve the overall objectives, PILOT ABP project addressed the main products of the animal by-products industry, by developing the following demonstration plants:

- Pilot plant for hydrothermal liquefaction pyrolysis (HTL)
- Pilot plant for obtaining high added value oils
- Pilot plant for obtaining protein based biopolymers

Project Results:
Pilot-ABP project can be considered as a previous step for the industrial implementation of more resource efficient technologies associated to the animal by-products industry. As a result, firstly an environmental improvement of the processing is expected, thanks to a more efficient consumption of the energy used in the process and a better recovery of raw materials, with a related decreasing in wastes production. Secondly, an increase of the added value of the obtained products is expected to improve the financial profitability of SMEs.

Within PILOT ABP project, the technical feasibility of the proposed technologies and products has been demonstrated through the design and construction of three pilot plants.

On the one hand, Hydrothermal Liquefaction (HTL) Pyrolysis has demonstrated to be an innovative technology for valorisation of ABP wastes at pilot plant scale. HTL is a process to obtain bio crude and char from ABP by-products or rendering wastes. HTL involves the use of water and the pressure auto generated by temperature in the pyrolysis process. HTL operates at subcritical water conditions, around 280-370 ºC and between 10 and 25 MPa. The advantages of this technique with respect to conventional pyrolysis are: 1) Less energy consumption, because it is not necessary to dry the sample, especially in this kind of wastes with so high water content; 2) Better separation between the bio-oil and the water phase; and 3) HTL bio-oil has very low oxygen, sulphur and water content (compared to e.g. pyrolysis oil).

Within PILOT ABP project a HTL pilot plant has been operated in continuous, which allows feeding solutions with high percentage of solids, and the technical viability of the process has been checked. The yield and the heating value of the biocrude obtained (around 40% in dry-basis and 30 MJ/kg, respectively) show the interest of the process as a way to valorise ABP.

A comparison between the LCA-LCC of HTL and a conventional pyrolysis process showed HTL as a better choice in the valorisation of animal by-products, providing that the water used in the HTL process is recycled.

Potential application of the pilot plant for HTL pyrolysis would be mainly energetic. In addition, a great potential can observed in the utilization of another kind of raw materials such as: sewage sludge, nuts (for essential oils production), fish meals, algae, waste generated in the parks and gardens pruning, etc.

The process of the continuous HTL process of ABP wastes is not available for competitors and the process will be protected with a patent.

From the HTL pyrolysis a liquid bio-oil with high caloric value, as the main product, to be used as fuel is obtained, as an alternative renewable energy source. Furthermore, the composition of the biocrude obtained allows also using it as source of different added-values compounds (fatty acids, amides, etc).

The customer segment is broad; all companies that need fuels for their production are relevant. The early adopters could be the ones producing the bio-fuel by HTL pyrolysis (farmers, slaughterhouses) and at the same time consuming the bio-fuel at their facilities.

On the second hand, the feasibility of the Short Path Distillation (SPD) as new technology for valorisation of fatty acids has been assessed. The pilot plant for high value oils can be used to produce high value oils for food purposes. The process consist of firstly a pre-treatment where enzymes are used to convert the fats and oils to desired products as mono– and diglycerides, fatty acids or fatty ethyl esters.

The pre-treated products are then fractionated using short path distillation. A technique to gentle fractionation of fat and oils as it operates under vacuum and thus at relative low temperatures, as main environmental advantage in comparison with current fractionation systems.

Cyclic or linear short path distillation can be carried out and the best separation is achieved using cyclic fraction, where the product is run through the short path distillation equipment multiple times.

The application areas for the pilot plant for high value oils are multiple and include besides fractionation to obtain certain fractions as mono– and diglycerides from e.g. pork fat, also removal of pollutant as dioxins from e.g. fish oils.

Furthermore, other relevant result consists in having demonstrated that pork fat can be processed to produce high-value products using an innovative process. High value fat oil and fat products can be mono- and di-glycerides (MAG and DAG), which are already approved as food additives. They showed the largest potential due to the improved functionality of these fractions of interest for applications in e.g. the food industry. Pork fat is used as raw material which is produced in large amounts as a side stream of the rendering activities. The fat is sold at very low prices. Valorization of the fat to produce new high value oils will considerably improve business.For such a purpose, the feasibility of pilot scale production process was proven and different parameters such as process time, temperature, reaction mode (batch or feed batch), and enzyme recycling were optimized.

The exploitation of high value oils as functional ingredient in meat products has the following advantages: 1) improved functionality because it stabilizes the emulsion; 2) replacement of existing fat because the product is fat based, already animal-based because it comes from animal-based side streams; 3) reduces phosphate salts because it has comparable functionality, 4) they are organic products, 5) clean label; 6) increase the nutritional value; 7) reduce food waste and 8) reduce CO2 emission.

Fatty acids from animal are similar to fatty acids from plants but it can be a challenge to use fatty acids of animal origin to products that are meat free. Further applications for this kind of products include their use as pet’s cosmetic ingredients or as chemicals for technical applications and represent an interesting opportunity for the companies to open to new business sectors. As advantage their high biocompatibility and favorable ecological/ethical value.

Finally, an innovative process based on an enzymatic hydrolysis of the processed animal proteins (PAP) to obtain collagen based products as functional biopolymers has been developed as a way of recovery.

The demonstration pilot plant of biopolymers has been designed in order to obtain a broad range of collagen based products, from technical-grade gelatines to hydrolysed collagens, from processed animal proteins (PAP) produced by the rendering industry as raw material. Therefore, final products are able to comply with the required properties for different intended technical applications, such as functional additives for leather industry, bio-based flocculants, emulsifiers or foaming agents for the chemical industry, as well as organic fertilisers.

A pilot plant has been designed and constructed for a maximum capacity of 100 kg suitable for the treatment of a minimum of 10 kg processed protein/batch, operating as semi continuous system. It is mainly composed of a reactor, a centrifuge and a drying system. The viability of the process and the pilot plant has been demonstrated and operating conditions have been optimized, studying the influence of process parameters on the final properties of the biopolymer.

As a result, the properties of the biopolymers determine their final application in different industrial fields. The molecular weight of the biopolymer highly depends on hydrolysis degree and, therefore, on processing conditions (temperature, pH, time, addition of enzymes, etc). This fact makes it possible to obtain a broad range of products, from technical grade gelatines to high hydrolysed collagen with no gelling power (Bloom value=0).

Furthermore, it was found that the composition of the PAPs used as raw materials highly determined the yield of the process, as well as the processing conditions. Indeed, processed animal proteins obtained by the method 5 according to EC Regulation Nr 1069/2009 which are characterised by lower particle size than those one obtained by method 1, showed the better results in terms of process yield.

Percentage of protein recovery near to 50% was reached. It can be considered as a success because according to the information found in the literature, yields under 10% of protein content were previously reported by other authors.

A comparison between the LCA-LCC of the enzymatic process and the conventional pyrolysis showed the new one as an alternative to the conventional chemical treatment based on the use of alkali or acids. The envisaged process allows a significant reduction in water and chemicals consumption, as well as in processing time. The developed process is fully controlled and it can be easily implemented and replicated world-wide.

More interest is expected in European countries due to environmental legislation reinforcement and the new circular economy model. The early adopters of the new process could be rendering companies producing Category 2 meat and bones meals (MBM) for the following applications: biogas plants and fertilisers.

Protein animal by- products (PAP) are rich in collagen and very low added value products recovered from animal by-products. Nevertheless, most of these products are currently not being recycled but disposed. On the same time, there is lacking raw materials to meet current market demands on collagen derivatives for different technical applications, as well as organic fertilisers. Up to now, there were not available technologies to transform them into collagen and the traditional ways to obtain collagen based products are by alkaline or acid methods involving high water and chemical consumption as well as high environmental impacts.

According to the developed process, a broad range of collagen based derivatives have been successfully produced, from low-medium grade gelatines to hydrolysed collagen (Bloom=0) by a more sustainable process.

Due to their main properties, two potential applications of extracted biopolymers as organic fertilisers and retanning reagents for leather industry were successfully evaluated. What is more, a broad range of the biopolymers produced within the project can meet the requirements of different applications, such as the ones previously considered at the beginning of the project (flocculants, stabilisers, adhesives, etc.).

Protein based biopolymers is a growing market due to increasing consumption in several applications such as food and beverage, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, as well as other technical applications. In addition, an increasing current awareness towards innovative products in the broad range of applications is expected to open new niche markets.

Regarding the use of the collagen based biopolymer as fertilizers, in accordance with the European legislation it is possible to use the nitrogenous component present in protein based biopolymers as a matrix. Especially, the phophorous and potassium incorporation on this matrix could be and alternative way to obtain a NPK fertilizer.

What is more, Pilot-ABP project represents innovative business opportunities. A wide range of industrial applications for each pilot plant have been identified. Initially main sectors of application will be those covered by the participant SMEs, but all of them believe that there will be an increase in their products portfolio in the short and medium term, with innovative industrial applications and products thanks to the results of the project.

Finally, the economical and environmental benefits of the project are based on the demonstration at pilot scale HTL technology as a more eco-friendly solution to ABP rendering process, as well as in the recovery and valorization of rendered fats and processed animal proteins into high added value oils and collagen based derivates with currently increasing market demand, for different technical applications. Deploying these technologies can help Europe maintain or gain a competitive edge in the future. The role of sustainable industrial processes is vital in furthering competitiveness and addressing the important challenges faced by Europe regarding EU Circular Economy.

Within PILOT ABP project results have been disseminated through conferences, publications, social networks and project web site (http://pilot-abp.eu). As a final event, a workshop entitled “Sustainable Technologies Applied to Animal By-products: Innovative Business Opportunities” was held in Alicante on 23rd May 2017. As keynote speaker, the General Secretary of the European Fat Processors and Renderers Association (EFPRA), representing Europe’s rendering industry was invited. Attendants included policy makers, ABP producers associations, rendering companies, researchers, biodiesel and biogas producers, etc.


Potential Impact:
Pilot-ABP project is the previous step for the industrial implementation of more resource efficient technologies associated to the animal by-products process. As a result, firstly an environmental improvement of the processing is expected, thanks to a more efficient consumption of the energy used in the process and a better recovery of raw materials, with a related decreasing in wastes production. Secondly, an increase of the added value of the obtained products will led to a better financial profitability of SMEs.

What is more, Pilot-ABP project represents innovative business opportunities. A wide range of industrial applications for each pilot plant have been identified. Initially main sectors of application will be those covered by the participant SMEs, but all of them believe that there will be an increase in their products portfolio in the short and medium term, with innovative industrial applications and products thanks to the results of the project.

Main application of the pilot plant for HTL pyrolysis would be mainly energetic. In addition, a great potential can be observed in the utilization of another kind of raw materials such as: sewage sludge, nuts (for essential oils production), fish meals, algae, waste generated in the parks and gardens pruning, etc.

Furthermore, other relevant expected result consists in having demonstrated that pork fat can be processed to produce high-value products using an innovative process. High value fat oil and fat products can be mono- and di-glycerides, which are already approved as food additives. Fractionation to fatty acids is also possible. Fatty acids from animal are similar to fatty acids from plants but it can be a challenge to use fatty acids of animal origin to products that are meat free. Further applications for this kind of products include their use as pet’s cosmetic ingredients or as chemicals for technical applications and represent an interesting opportunity for the companies to open to new business sectors.

Regarding protein-based biopolymers from ABPs, it is expected several applications on physicochemical and enzymatic processes in biomass waste treatment, food industry, deodorizing and sanitation, bioremediation and services for organic fertilizer production. The companies involved expects to incorporate into their portfolio the new process for the recovery of the protein fraction coming from the rendering industry which, in Europe, deals with 17 MMT of animal by-products every year, and also other possible derivates coming from the others plants involved in the project. Furthermore, the commercialisation of the resulting protein-based biopolymers would increase their product portfolio, entering in new industrial sectors with high growth prospects.

The economical and environmental benefits of the project are based on the demonstration at pilot scale HTL technology as more eco-friendly solution to ABP rendering process, as well as in the recovery and valorization of rendered fats and processed animal proteins into high added value oils and collagen based derivates with currently increasing market demand, for different technical applications. Deploying these technologies can help Europe maintain or gain a competitive edge in the future. The role of sustainable industrial processes is vital in furthering competitiveness and addressing the grand challenges faced by Europe regarding EU Circular Economy.

In this sense, the EU has long recognized the risks and opportunities stemming from bio-waste. One of the priorities of EU waste legislation is to improve the management of bio-waste, which includes the management of ABPs.

As far as the findings of the PILOT ABP project are concerned, the following aspects must be taken into consideration:
• A plant involved in the processing of type 1 ABPs must be approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (named differently in each EU Country) and hold a valid certificate of approval in accordance with (Article 24 (a) of Regulation (EC) No. 1069/2009);
• The operator must comply with all relevant requirements listed in the pertaining regulations and legislations (European Union ABPs Regulations S.I. No. 187/2014, No. 1069/2009 and No. 142/2011);
• Licenses and authorisations required to operate must be valid from all relevant licensing authorities while the plant is operational;
• Current conditions for approval of a plant involved in the processing of type 1 ABPs must be taken into account, in particular processing plants must not be situated on the same site as slaughterhouses or other establishments which have been approved or registered in accordance with Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 or Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004, unless the risks to public and animal health resulting from the processing of ABPs, which originate from such slaughterhouses or other establishments, are mitigated by compliance under some conditions;
• The operator must not engage in activities other than the acceptance, sorting, processing (in accordance with the biodiesel process described in Chapter IV, Annex IV of Regulation (EU) No. 142/2011).
• Strict rules on the reuse of specific materials.

As a consequence, compliance to EU Legislations (EU No. 1069/2009 and No. 142/2011) and National Regulations remains a major priority in future scope in order to implement final exploitation of the HTL technology: in fact, necessary actions and communications for achievement of certificate of approval for processing of type 1 ABPs are planned in the next future.

The legislation in force (which is becoming increasingly strict) and a real environmental awareness, nowadays make the process for ABPs treatment require improved technical features and high level of dedicated research and investments. Without effective efforts on the environmentally friendly animal by-products valorisation, the accumulation of unprocessed ABPs would impede meat industry and pose critical and negative implications to the environment, animal and human health.

Dissemination has been considered as a key activity to achieve the project objectives, communicate PILOT-ABP outcomes and reach target audiences, by means of strategic communication actions.

In this sense, the activities related to dissemination started with the creation of a project website (http://pilot-abp.eu) and a communication platform. It was launched in July 2014 and has been being continuously maintained and updated. Its contents were translated into 4 languages. This website received 18,577 visits since the beginning of the project.

PILOT-ABP project is also aware of the increasing importance of social networks nowadays. In this sense, the social media strategy for our project is two-fold: to keep followers continuously updated with project news and sector-related events, and to boost frequent communication with the widest audience possible. A YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwAQHInRX8Qlr4fLmcvawUw/videos?view_as=subscriber) Google + page, Facebook page and a Twitter account were created for communication/dissemination purposes.

During the whole project duration, it is worth mentioning that the project and project results have been presented in numerous events and conferences in EU and outside the EU.

To conclude, a final event to present overall project results was organised in conjunction with the final General Assembly meeting. The workshop was held in Alicante on 23rd May 2017. With the aim of summarising the essence of the workshop in just one sentence, this event was entitled “Sustainable Technologies Applied to Animal By-products: Innovative Business Opportunities”.

Also, it is worth mentioning the importance of popular press to reach wider audiences and the society in general. In this sense, as it occurred during the first months of the project when the launching of PILOT-ABP was announced, several press releases have been published by the end of the project in popular press communicating the setup of the plants and related advantages.

Within the Plan for Use and Dissemination of project results, all partners contributed with the identification and characterisation of the above mentioned seven key exploitable results, their innovation content, associated risks, foreseen protection measures, etc.

Also, as part of the exploitation activities - and in line with the communication strategy set out for the project - meetings with potential clients/customers/users of the project expected outcomes have taken place. These contacts allowed getting first-hand information from stakeholders about current market opportunities for the resulting technologies and products, which confirms the commitment of SME partners with the project objectives. What is more, the participation of stakeholders, companies from outside the Consortium which declared interest in the topic was promoted.


List of Websites:
The project website http://pilot-abp.eu was launched in July 2014 and is being continuously maintained and updated. Its contents are translated into 4 languages. It was conceived as an interactive virtual space to connect people and organisations in different industrial sectors, the main objective of this website is centralizing communication /dissemination of PILOT-ABP project within the consortium members and also to the wider community.

This dissemination tool provides easy access to the project by publishing information on:
- Project objectives and results.
- Partners involved, their specific competences and main activity sector.
- Dissemination events where PILOT-ABP takes part.
- Dissemination documents presented at conferences or fairs, such as presentations, posters, leaflets, etc.
- Interesting links related to the activities developed in the project.
- Latest news about the project.

Furthermore, the website was conceived also as a tool contributing to enhance Consortium internal communication while preserving the confidentiality of some project documents in the private area. In this section, Partners were able to share documents and follow the progress of project activities in the different WPs.

Keeping the project website updated has been a must, because information flows are faster than ever. For this reason, any press releases, events, participations in fairs, etc, have been reported and updated on the website.

For further information: http://pilot-abp.eu

Project Coordinator:
Dr. Francisca Arán (aran@inescop.es)
INESCOP – Centre for Innovation and Technology
03600 – Elda (Alicante) Spain