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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECOPULPING (Valorising the straw waste stream through a novel bio-mechanical process which converts 100% of the waste into three high value products including bleached paper pulp.)

ECOPULPING Report Summary

Project ID: 729172

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECOPULPING (Valorising the straw waste stream through a novel bio-mechanical process which converts 100% of the waste into three high value products including bleached paper pulp.)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Currently paper pulp is made mainly from either wood or recycled paper, however this has placed a huge burden on forests with deforestation still alarmingly high in many parts of the world. Pulping straw (a low to no value by-product of the wheat industry) to make paper pulp appears to be the perfect solution. However this process produces a black liquor with no viable economic disposal solution for small-scale production. The process cannot achieve reasonable running costs (heat, pressure, chemical renewal), requires dry straw, uses expensive recovery techniques and requires skilled workers to operate the digester. ECOPULPING is an alternative processing method enabled by corresponding novel equipment design. This process in turn enables much easier and more efficient processing and 100% valorisation of the process output. Our novel ECOPULPING process does not require any pressure and very low heating meaning low running costs and which simplifies the recovery treatments and requires less costly materials. This leads allows access to valuable co-products which will be worth up to or more than twice the value of output when compared to current pulping mills and produces no liquid waste or odour. The plant is designed to operate as a closed-loop system meaning that there is little chemical top up needed. It can use straw with high moisture content and therefore there are no storage costs. We have already built a pilot plant capable of producing 400 kg per day of unbleached and un-cleaned pulp, and soon a cleaner pulp in the UK. The plant is successfully being used to process pre-production samples for prospective partners using paper mills to finish the paper products. The overall first objective for the ECOPULPING project is to build a 50 tonne bleached straw pulp a day demonstrator. After carrying out the feasibility study we have concluded that we will progress the project onto a Phase 2.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The Phase 1 project consisted of 5 tasks; voice of customer, EU market research, investigation of co-products, technical gap analysis, establishment of project partners and refinement of a business plan. The voice of customer task proved very lucrative we now have a number of expressions of interest from potential customers and have confirmed how we can exploit the EU market. Key supply chain members have been engaged and we now clear on our route to commercialisation. Based on the results of the feasibility study we will continue the project to Phase 2.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Due to the high initial investment cost, the main market barrier is proving to potential customers that a process is sustainable and delivers a return of investment and a payback within maximum of 6 years, depending on scale.
The total world paper pulp production is 180 million tonnes and there are still many countries importing pulp with their paper and board consumption is increasing. As an example, 1.1 million tonnes of pulp were imported in the UK in 2013.
The criteria for end users is that the straw pulp production should be located in countries:
• That have straw available in large quantity
• Where hardwood pulp or recycled paper are currently used or imported
• Where there is a need for more paper and packaging products.
Ecopulping fulfils this criteria and will be launched on the market at the right time to capitalise on this opportunity. This will deliver substantial growth to the Nafici and grow their turnover more than tenfold by the 5th year following commercial launch.

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