Woody biomass-to-chemicals demonstration project starts in EU

By DSM | September 07, 2016

BIOFOREVER (BIO-based products from FORestry via Economically Viable European Routes)—a consortium of 14 European companies—recently announced the start of a demonstration project for the conversion of woody biomass to value adding chemical building blocks.

In December 2015 the consortium applied for European funding under the Horizon 2020 program and in April 2016 the proposal was positively evaluated by Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking, a public/private partnership between the European Union and the Bio-based Industries Consortium.

BIOFOREVER intends to demonstrate the feasibility of various new value chains from lignocellulosic feedstocks to chemical building blocks like butanol, ethanol, 2, 5 – furandicarboxylic acid on an industrial scale.

Matti Heikkilä, chief technical officer at MetGen Oy, said “MetGen has always been enthusiastic about building new industrial value-chains through collaboration. We are certain that it is already possible to be competitive against petroleum-based chemicals and the food-based sugars utilizing existing technologies—more than that, we can make better products than is possible through conventional processes. To be successful in such a task requires connecting the capabilities and expertise of several companies and research organizations to create complementary and complete processes. BIOFOREVER brings together the most potential technologies in Europe and unifies professionals behind them to tackle an ambitious goal of enabling next generation bio-refining industry.”

A number of pretreatment and subsequent conversion technologies will be demonstrated, including delivering commercialisation routes for the most promising value chains.

Nadège Laborde, president of Novasep's Industrial Biotech Business Unit, said "BIOFOREVER is supporting the development of a sustainable economy and is part of the European 2020 Strategy. This industrial project must demonstrate we can reach economically viable production  of bio-sourced products from a range of woody biomass. Novasep is thrilled to be part of this ambitious project, which is poised to succeed.”

The demonstration project starts in September 2016 and will run for 3 years. The overall budget is €16.2 million ($18.21 million) with a € 9.9 million contribution from BBI JU. Woody biomass, including waste wood will be converted to lignin, (nano-) cellulose and (hemi-) cellulosic sugars, and further converted to lignin derivatives and chemicals like butanol, ethanol and FDCA on industrial scale, where feedstocks will be benchmarked with crop residues and energy crops.

Typically, such biorefineries will be projected in logistic hubs such as the Port of Rotterdam and other European ports.

Tim Davies, chief technical officer of Green Biologics Ltd., said “Green Biologics relishes the opportunity to work towards the aims of BIOFOREVER, which, through combining a strong consortium of industrial biotechnology, chemical and manufacturing companies and the best available technologies, will drive toward the commercialization of renewable technology and the development of a world leading bio-refining industry.”

This demonstration project will provide ample space for commercialization of industrial scale biorefineries serving new value chains.

BIOFOREVER consortium partners include API Europe, Greece; Avantium Chemicals BV, Netherlands; Bioprocess Pilot Facility BV, Netherlands; Borregaard AS, Norway; Bio Refinery Development BV, Netherlands; DSM, Netherlands; Elkem Carbon AS, Norway; Green Biologics Ltd, U.K.; MetGen Oy, Finland; Nova Institute, Germany; Novasep Process SAS, France; Phytowelt, Green Technologies GmbH, Germany; Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands; and SUEZ Groupe, France.