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4x4, demonstrating a flexible value chain to utilize biomass functionalities in the processing industry

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Bio4Products (4x4, demonstrating a flexible value chain to utilize biomass functionalities in the processing industry)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-06-30

Biomass is a valuable, sustainable feedstock for the production of chemicals and materials, and will play an important role in the transition of the European Process Industry to a Sustainable Process Industry. Bio-based products – products wholly or partly derived from materials of biological origin – can make the economy more sustainable and lower its dependence on fossil fuels.
For the optimal utilization of bio-resources fractionation on the basis of functionalities is required. A new biorefinery approach developed in Bio4Products applies a short thermal treatment at elevated temperature (fast pyrolysis) followed by a low temperature fractionation that keeps the key chemical functionalities intact in separate, liquid, depolymerized fractions. Fast pyrolysis is a thermal treatment that converts solid biomass into a liquid called fast pyrolysis bio-oil (FPBO). This FPBO consists of components derived from the de-polymerization of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. FPBO can be used directly for energy purposes, upgraded to transportation fuels or separated into functional groups, i.e. pyrolytic lignin and pyrolytic sugars.
Bio4Products will demonstrate how biomass residues can be exploited, creating renewable and natural alternatives to petrochemical products. A fractionation unit of 3 ton/day will be established. Subsequently, the use of the fractions will be demonstrated in four end products: phenolic and sand moulding resins, engineered wood and natural fibre reinforced products. The overall objective is to substitute at least 30% of the original fossil feedstock of these products by sustainable resources, and deliver a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Since the start in September 2016 work has been carried out along the whole chain from biomass sourcing up to the end-use of the fractions. In addition to the technical development work, a number of activities have been initiated like business, market and environmental assessments.
Biomass samples were selected from different sectors being agricultural (e.g. straw), food/feed processing (e.g. sunflower husk) and forestry (e.g bark). Samples were tested in bench-scale units. Of all samples tested three feedstocks were selected for further pilot plant processing (poplar slabs, wheat straw and sunflower husk). CAPAX evaluated potential locations in Europe for a pyrolysis-fractionation unit using these biomasses (“Virtual plants”). Sites in France, the Netherlands, Finland and Romania are further evaluated.
Initially BTG has fractionated the pyrolysis oils on lab-scale to gain a better understanding of the process as well as providing sufficient material for product development. Pyrolytic sugar and lignin samples were provided as such or further treated depending on the end-users demands.
A main deliverable of the project is the construction of a fractionation demo-plant. The design capacity is 3 ton of pyrolysis liquid per day producing pyrolytic sugar and lignin. The pyrolysis oil needed for the operation of the plant will be produced in BTG’s fast pyrolysis pilot plant or provided by the Empyro pyrolysis oil production plant. The pilot plant was commissioned in Q3 of 2018 and test runs were started in Q4 of 2018. Full plant capacity has been achieved and the required quantities of the fractions for the consortium partners have been supplied. The obligations concerning REACH registration of the individual fractions have been assessed and registration has been initiated.
The focus of TFC is on the use of the pyrolytic sugars in formulations for wood modification and foundry resins. A large number of small, standardized wooden sticks have been impregnated with different formulations containing varying amounts of pyrolytic sugars. Next, the durability and eco-performance of the wood-samples were tested, and the results were positive. The most promising formulation were identified for wood modification as well as foundry resins. Wood modification runs on pilot scale have been performed by Foreco, and several field demonstrations have been carried out.
The use of pyrolytic lignin was evaluated by Derbigum and Hexion. The aim of Derbigum was to develop a sustainable roofing material using pyrolytic lignin. However, due to the lack of convincing results, Derbigum couldn’t justify the scale-up of the process as originally foreseen in the project. As a consequence, this work has been discontinued. Hexion started with a detailed physical/chemical analysis of the pyrolytic lignin to get a better insight in the properties, and also to evaluate the differences in reactivity between the lignin derived from various biomass resources. Hexion aims to use pyrolytic lignin to partially replace fossil phenol in a variety of its existing resin formulations, with possible applications in the automotive industry, insulation, steel industry/metal casting, household products, abrasives and plywood manufacturing. Especially good results were obtained for foam- , molding- and plywood resins. Multiple large batches and batches on pilot scale will be produced and tested by multiple potential customers.
Biomass sustainability and product Life Cycle Assessments are being prepared by BTG for various entire value chains. GHG emission calculations for the complete value chains (from biomass production to pyrolysis, fractionation and end-use) show a high potential for reducing the overall GHG emissions. The economic assessment was led by E4Tech with promising results, but costs associated with REACH obligations might have a very significant impact. A business and market evaluation has been carried out by Van der Meer & Tilburg including the identification of new markets. The main products from the fractionation process are lignin and sugars, but also smaller quantities of so-called extractives (“pyrolytic tall oil”) are obtained. These extractives do have interesting properties, and potentially address a new product line. Greenovate! Europe is responsible for project communication and dissemination. Besides project branding, website and templates an interesting movie was produced concerning the Bio4Products concept.
Fractionation of fast pyrolysis oil as well as the use of the fractions in the bio-based products is in its infancy, and substantial progress in this field is expected in Bio4Products. The overall objective is to scale up the pyrolysis oil fractionation to 3 ton per day and create four products for which at least 30% of the original fossil-based stream is substituted with sustainable resources, and which deliver a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, making products from biomass is a complex business.
By targeting residual bio-resources Bio4Products aims for long-term sustainability. The selected biomass feedstocks are unsuitable for food production and do not stimulate indirect land use change (ILUC). To validate the sustainability of the selected feedstocks, Bio4Products will conduct in-depth assessments for each biomass type, considering: greenhouse gas emissions; energy use; competition with food and other applications; indirect land use change; carbon debt; biodiversity; impact on soil, water and air; and social and economic impacts.
Throughout the project Bio4Products Greenovate! Europe was very active to to engage potential end-users and consumers via a series of workshops and webinars, and a targeted communication campaign.
Fast Pyrolysis Bio-oil
Bench made from modified wood
Bio4Products Logo
Empyro: commercial, fast pyrolysis oil production plant
Bio4Products Pilot Plant at BTG