AgriChemWhey

An integrated biorefinery for the conversion of dairy side streams to high value bio-based chemicals

Summary

The European dairy industry, as a by-product of whey protein manufacture, produces substances known as whey permeate and – following extraction of lactose - delactosed whey permeate. These dairy-processing sidestreams lack effective, reliable disposal routes. From a sustainability perspective, this presents a challenge, particularly in the light of the EU’s ‘post milk quota era’.

The AgriChemWhey project proposes to convert these sidestreams into added-value products – specifically L-Lactic acid, polylactic acid, minerals for human nutrition and bio-based fertiliser - for growing global markets. In the process, it will develop a blueprint for an economic sustainability model that can be replicated throughout Europe.

Description

Objectives 

The main objective of the AgriChemWhey is to develop the world’s first integrated biorefinery for converting food-processing residues to bio-based chemicals. It will see a dedicated plant developed in Ireland. The project will see a new value chain for lactic acid from dairy production residues. Specifically, the project will:

  • Demonstrate the ability to use innovative biorefinery technology to convert food-processing residues to food, feed and polymer grade LA at industrial scale.
  • Optimise the technology by reducing production times and increasing yields, thus simplifying the process and making it more energy efficient.
  • Establish industrial symbiosis to valorise side streams using with local partners - particularly of gypsum, calcium phosphate and fermentation residue – for agriculture and human nutrition.
  • Develop and rollout exploitation strategies that will ensure commercialisation and wider uptake of the biorefinery technology.
Impacts 

The AgriChemWhey project aims for the following impacts :

  • Developing rural communities by creating local jobs. Replicating AgriChemWhey biorefineries has the potential to create over 1,000 rural jobs within four years of project completion.
  • Securing the future for dairy farming by making milk production more sustainable and increase the amount that farmers can earn from their outputs and protecting them against price volatility
  • Regional development, by replicating one to five similar AgriChemWhey-style biorefineries attracting from private investments up to 325 MEUR.
  • Improving the EU trade balance through greater resource efficiency and by reducing current EU L-lactic acid imports (currently 80,000 tonnes per annum) and ultimately turning Europe into a net exporter.
  • Encourage industrial symbiosis that inspires the creation of new value chains.
  • Provide inspiration through the success of the project, encouraging society and industry to embrace the growth and competitiveness of a European circular bioeconomy.
  • CreateCO2 savings in a range from 18,000 - 89,000 tonnes CO2eq/year, depending on the number of AgriChemWhey-style biorefineries.

Project achievements & milestones

Achievements & milestones: 

Converting dairy by-products into high value bio-based chemicals
19 March 2018
11 partners from 5 member states (manufacturers, technical specialists, councils and educational institutions) are working together to valorise excess by-products from the dairy industry to value added products such as lactic acid, polylactic acid, minerals for human nutrition and bio-based fertilisers. Read more