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Processing Underutilised Low value sugarbeet Pulp into VALUE added products (PULP2VALUE)

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - PULP2VALUE (Processing Underutilised Low value sugarbeet Pulp into VALUE added products (PULP2VALUE))

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-06-30

Royal Cosun is one of the leading companies in sugar beet processing in Europe. Its primary processing revolves around the extraction of sugar from the sugar beet. During the process sugar beet pulp is produced as side stream and further valorized as feed and green gas. To increase the value of this side stream, Cosun developed multiple extraction techniques to isolate more valuable products from sugar beet pulp. Microcellulose fibers, arabinose and galacturonic acid can be isolated as high value products and can be used in a great variety of applications such as composites, chemical building blocks, food & flavor applications as well as detergents and personal care. Basic economics show that the full potential of sugar beet pulp can only be exploited in case of a full scale cascade biorefinery system, producing microcellulose fibers, arabinose and galacturonic acid. Sugar beet pulp is a major residual stream from the sugar beet industry, in Europe approx. 13 million tons per year is being produced.

Cosun developed and build a pilot facility in which the state-of-the-art unit operations were tested. Pulp2Value is aiming for the scale-up of these pilot processes to semi-industrial scale and the successful development of value chains based on the products derived from sugar beet pulp. Cosun aims to significantly increase the value of the sugar beet pulp by demonstrating applications for approximately 65% of its mass in high value markets. Demonstration of the separate and overall business case(s) is the main generic objective of the project.
The main objectives are:
1. Scale up, optimize and integrate processes for the production of microcellulose fibers, arabinose and galacturonic acid.
2. Build long lasting value chains for microcellulose fibers, arabinose and galacturonic acid.

At the end of Pulp2Value the consortium managed to realize most of its objectives:
• Demo plants were build and are operational for micro-fibers and arabinose. Up scaling of the production of the micro-fibers is ongoing.
• Production of galacturonic acid has been proven on Demo scale.
• Positive business cases were identified for micro-fibers and galacturonic acid derived products.
• Health benefits for arabinose were further investigated and confirmed but the market aspects are not fully clear yet.
• First costumers are being supplied.
• Design and engineering of a large scale biorefinery of sugar beet pulp has started.

Follow up:
The ultimate goal is to build a large scale biorefinery which refines sugar beet pulp in an integrated and cost-effective way for the supply of various products to various markets. This will strengthen the competitiveness of sugar beet as food crop which is important to assure income of European farmers and for agro-companies to generate more value from sugar beet and in this way preserving the companies assets and competences on large scale biorefineries for the future. For Northwestern Europe the sugar beet is the most productive crop and could therefore play an important role in the transition of Europe to a bio-economy. The sustainable supply of renewable feed stocks such as sugar beets is essential for this transition.
The focus of the activities of the consortium partners is summarized below.
Cosun: Design, build and operate Demo production plants for micro-fibers, galacturonic acid and arabinose. Value chain development for the Pulp2Value products. Project coordinator
Orineo: Application of various products, based on sugar beet pulp, in flooring, panels, adhesives and glues. Prototype development.
Refresco Gerber UK: Exploration of the application of various Pulp2Value products in beverages such as soda drinks and juices.
Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant: Pilot testing of unit operations and testing of process concepts to support process engineering for the Demo plants.
nova-Institute: Economic and environmental analysis of the biorefinery concepts and support on IP management and communication activities. A stakeholder analysis was conducted and two stakeholder workshops were organized.
Wageningen University: Investigating the effects of arabinose in various food matrices on human glucose metabolism, satiety and potential health effects.
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research: Research and process development on feed stock pretreatment, synthesis routes to biobased building blocks and exploration of new applications for various building blocks. Development of biosurfactants and evaluation of properties.

The project consortium realized most of the project goals. Demo plants were build and are running and further up-scaling is ongoing. At least 9 potential value chains were identified although not every value chain turned out to be interesting. At the same time new value chains were identified and are now being further developed. During the project many technological, practical and organizational problems needed to be solved along the way. But this is part of the valuable experiences and learnings that go along with a Demo project. These learnings are essential for a proper business case analyses and for the design and realization of the full scale biorefinery plant.

In the last year of the project two external workshops were organized to share the learnings of the Pulp2value project with the public. The first workshop was about the process towards realization of fully integrated biorefineries. The second workshop was on value chain development and on how to position biobased products in such way that the benefits are appealing for consumers. Many people from industry, academia, governments, media etc. attended the workshops and they were perceived very well by the attendees. During the project the consortium partners promoted this BBI JU project and the products in many ways.
The following areas of impact were expected at the start of the Pulp2Value project:

• Rural development in sugar beet growing areas by connecting the sugar beet processing industry with various industries, including the chemical and food industry.
During the project many jobs (blue and white collar) were generated directly and indirectly in rural areas (NL en PL). New cross sectoral collaborations were established between the agro-food industry and others like chemical industry, detergents, personal care, paints & coatings, construction etc..

• Increased resource efficiency through the diversified use of a side stream of the sugar beet industry.
The objective to valorize 65% of the beet pulp in high value products is confirmed to be very realistic. This will strengthen the competiveness of the sugar beet which is of direct importance for the farmers and for the agro-food industry in Europe.

• An expanded European portfolio of value-added products.
Multiple high value products are being developed based on sugar beet pulp with promising business cases. Industrial and consumer applications have been identified and are further being developed. In total 4 patent applications were filed as result of the project.

• Innovative products with a low environmental impact.
The environmental evaluation showed the positive aspects of the processing concepts but also indicated improvement areas. Positive impact is related to the usage of a side streams as feedstock, mild and water based processes and the high feedstock efficiency. Usage of consumables can be improved.
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Overview of biorefinery concept of Pulp2Value