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  • Periodic Report Summary 2 - BIO-QED (Quod Erat Demonstrandum: Large scale demonstration for the bio-based bulk chemicals BDO and IA aiming at cost reduction and improved sustainability)

BIO-QED Report Summary

Project ID: 613941
Funded under: FP7-KBBE
Country: Italy

Periodic Report Summary 2 - BIO-QED (Quod Erat Demonstrandum: Large scale demonstration for the bio-based bulk chemicals BDO and IA aiming at cost reduction and improved sustainability)

Project Context and Objectives:
The overall objective of Bio-QED project is to describe how promising research results for important bio-based diols (i.e. 1,4 butanediol) and dicarboxylic acids (i.e. itaconic acid), will be guided through the notorious “Innovation Valley of Death” to the level of large scale industrial demonstrations.
Europe is preparing in fact for a transition from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy and this European Bioeconomy offers, as described in the EC Strategy Paper and Action plan, entitled “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe ”, a comprehensive answer on key societal challenges, like creating and maintaining jobs, maintaining the competitiveness of the European Process Industries, adaptation to climate change, reducing the dependency on non-renewable feedstocks and “more with less” strategy on renewable biomass used for food, added value chemicals and energy. Moreover, the European Commission reiterated the pivotal role of bio based products and market development in the context of the review of the EU Industrial Policy”.
Due to its extensive scope and complex character it can be expected that the accomplishment of the desired transition will take at least one to two decades. The current starting position for Europe on the biotechnological production of added value chemicals from renewable biomass is still very good, with its leading scientific position on industrial White Biotechnology, the global top positions of the European chemical and agro-food industries and the sophisticated logistic infrastructure, but there is an urgent need to go to the innovation and commercial exploitation phase to prevent that Europe loses its strong starting position to faster acting competing economies.
For this reason an entrepreneurial consortium was built with the joint ambition to generate hard evidence and collect all technical and economic key design parameters needed for investment decisions for the first industrial production plants for the bio-based building blocks, such as bio-based diols (i.e. 1,4 butanediol) and dicarboxylic acids (i.e. itaconic acid),.
The Bio-QED consortium wants to support the Bioeconomy Strategy by taking a frontrunner position guiding promising research results for these three demonstrations, which have a number of synergetic effects, we want to prove that:
• Industrial White Biotechnology has reached the status that important bio-based building blocks can be made on a scale and with a level of robustness and reliability that it is ready to be implemented in industry,
• The costs and efficiency of industrial biotechnology processes can still be reduced significantly by implementing novel concepts like continuous fermentation and highly selective and energy efficient technologies for separation and purification
• Bio-QED will improve the sustainability profile of industrial biotechnology processes and promote the efficient use of resources switching from 1st to 2nd generation feedstock; however risk analysis evaluation about the effect of the use RRM for Biodegradable and Compostable application pointed out that Bioplastics demand is not going to affect food shortage as well as prices, and
• That the produced building blocks can both be used as bio-based drop in replacements as well as for new applications or products with new functionality or improved performance.
The planned demonstrations are solidly based on preceding research results originating from the KBBE Flagship Project BioConSepT and the internal research programs of the industrial partners.
Indeed, the Bio-QED consortium is based on strong industrial partners and R&D Organizations covering the full supply chains for bio-based bio-based diols (i.e. 1,4 butanediol) and dicarboxylic acids (i.e. itaconic acid),from the feedstock up to the application of the building blocks in (semi)products. Furthermore, the consortium has the track record and proven capabilities of taking results from lab scale, through large scale demonstrations and consecutive implementation in industry.

Project Results:
The Bio-QED project lasts 48 months and is broken down into 8 Work Packages (six technical and two non-technical WPs), each targeting partial developments concurring as a whole to demonstrating the technical, economic and environmental sustainability of the production of bio-based bio-based diols (i.e. 1,4 butanediol) and dicarboxylic acids (i.e. itaconic acid).
WP1 - Evaluation of 1st and 2nd generation feedstock - took place during the first 12 months of the project and it has brought to the identification and validation of 1st generation byproducts and innovative 2nd generation sugars solutions that have been successfully used to feed the activities of WP2 and WP4.
During this reporting period, WP2 and WP3 have reached a robust microbial fermentation and downstream processes able to support the scale-up in WP4. In particular, a robust variable volume fed-batch process has been developed for BDO up to 150-200 L scale, using 1st generation sugars as benchmark. Furthermore using variable volume fed-batch process and the final industrial strain, lower by-products, higher BDO titer, higher productivity and higher yield have been obtained. Referring the IA upstream process, best results have been achieved with the strain A. terreus. Fermentations with immobilized mycelia of A. niger have been tested: comparable/higher itaconic acid yields resulted. In both IA and BDO fermentation process, comparable results have been obtained with 2nd generation feedstocks providing that no toxic substances are present.
In WP3 – Downstream processes - a cooling crystallization cascade for IA recovery has been successfully tested at bench scale in batch and documented in a protocol to be used as blueprint for the pilot process in WP4. In the other hand the Novamont process for BDO separation based on micro- and nanofiltration has been set up and tested at pilot scale. The first step for BDO purification, based on primary ion-exchange, allowed to determine the maximum amount of BDO stream that can be loaded before the saturation of the resin is reached. In WP4 re-industrialization of Mater-Biotech site and commissioning activities propaedeutic for the scale-up fermentation, have been almost concluded, including the white test for all the small and large scale fermenters. For the scale up of the itaconic acid, a fermentation cascade has been successfully tested with similar results, even if the fermentation protocol could be improved regarding maximum productivity reducing the cultivation time. Purified BDO and IA have been validated in WP5 showing proprieties comparable to the building blocks from fossil resource. First carrier bags prototypes have been realized by Miplast. Within WP6 (WP6 - Sustainability assessment), a preliminary techno-economic assessment (TEE) for the organosolv process for both IA and BDO have been realized together with a preliminary LCA analysis for (i) 2nd generation sugars coming from Organo-solv (ii) IA produced from 1st and 2nd generation sugars (iii) BDO produced from 1st and 2nd generation sugars. Certification schemes fitting with the Bio-QED scopes have been identified. Within WP7 (Dissemination and Exploitation), a public and private website section has been updated. Furthermore it is organizing a second stakeholders workshop on May in Cologne. Patentopolis has constantly updated the IA Strategic Plan and IP Mapping studies for developments by competitors and emerging technologies outside the Consortium.

Potential Impact:
Bio-QED will develop and demonstrate some of the most innovative platforms dedicated to the production of the chemical building blocks as diols (i.e. 1,4 butanediol) and dicarboxylic acids (i.e. itaconic acid) from renewable resources through the use of innovative fermentation processes, enabling a breakthrough in costs by making the processes for their production (and especially the fermentation) fed batch/continuous and by using highly selective and energy-friendly novel technologies for separation and purification. Moreover Bio-QED will demonstrate at relevant scale the sustainability of the biobased production of these BBs with respect to environmental and economic criteria, validating their application into biobased materials and products. This concept will definitely open up new perspectives not only for the consortium partners, but also for the European chemical sector and all its dependent downstream industries, the majority of them being SMEs. This opportunity, together with the opportunity of applying an integrated chain would definitely result in clear added benefits for economy, society and the environment.
Thanks to the good efforts of industry and public and private research, Bio-QED sets for itself the ambitious goal of rethinking also the development of the chemical industry – presently undergoing a wide-reaching contraction due to the financial and economic crises – by integrating chemistry, agriculture and the environment. In fact, Bio-QED platforms will be able to quickly develop innovative bio-based processes, justifying new investments with the impact of possibly regenerating the use of existing facilities that were abandoned in the last years due to economic crisis or delocalization. Production with low environmental impact, renewable resources, and the search for new models of systemic economy, such as those that will be obtained in Bio-QED, can be suitably exploited to revitalize chemistry in an environmental framework in the countries that will host the demonstration platforms and then offering good examples for future replication of the initiative in other countries.
At last but not least, Bio-QED project aims at contributing to the main EU policies through a strong alignment with Horizon 2020, the Bioeconomy Strategy and the Strategy on Key Enabling Technologies. This will be achieved thanks to the strong systemic integration of the processes and the market driven approach guiding the innovation efforts that will be performed. Industrial Biotechnology becomes the key pillar on which new processes for the production of added value products can be developed with an efficient use of resources and with strong environmental and social benefits.

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