Novel lignocellulose fractionation process for high purity lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose valorisation into added value products
The EU’s drive towards a circular economy has seen increasing numbers of biorefineries established in Europe. As a result of the EU’s bioeconomy, these will continue to rise; however, in future the focus will be on so-called ‘second-generation’ refineries, which target lignocellulosic feedstocks from non-edible and non-energy crops, as well as biowaste, to produce biofuels for electricity, heat, as well as bio-based polymers and chemicals. However, lignocellulosic feedstocks pose particular challenges to process. The required pre-treatments for the feedstock make biorefineries difficult to run economically; this is compounded by different feedstocks requiring different processes. If future lignocellulosic biorefineries want to remain competitive, they will need to be adaptable and capable of optimising production to a wide and changing range of feedstocks, demand and economic conditions.
The FRACTION project will pioneer a new second-generation biorefinery approach. This is designed to maximise the purity and quality of lignin and hemicellulose side streams to allow them to be used in high added-value products, while keeping high quality cellulose as main targeted product. This relies on novel organosolv fractionation process based on ɣ-valerolactone (GVL) and water followed by downstream processing and purification technologies.
The added value of this process arises from the performance of the GVL-based approach, which solves many of the existing challenges. It allows for continuous biomass feeding, high biomass loading and low degradation of all three streams – cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. In addition, the GVL is recoverable and recyclable. This technology should help ready second-generation biorefineries for the future.
The overarching objective of the FRACTION project is to increase the performance of second-generation biorefineries, improving their economics and flexibility in dealing with lignocellulose feedstocks. Within this, it will pursue a number of specific objectives.
- From an environmental perspective, the FRACTION project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the value chain through improvements in a range of production methods. It will also increase energy efficiency by more than 50% when benchmarked against current state-of-the-art methods. It will also contribute the EU’ climate neutral by 2050 strategy through creating energy and resource efficient biorefineries.
- From an economic perspective, the FRACTION project will increase the total economic value of lignocellulose processing-derived products by at least 20%. In addition, it will reduce separation costs in processing by at least 20% - a significant contribution, given that this can be as much as 40% of overall production costs.
- From a social perspective, the FRACTION project will demonstrate the potential for creating new jobs in rural and coastal areas within the bio-based economy. This will make these less-urban settings easier and more attractive places to live and work.
The FRACTION project is aiming to deliver a number of impacts that will contribute to the wider goals of the BBI JU. These will include:
- Creating five new interconnections in the bio-based economy, namely between the feedstock providers - agri-food, forestry and pulp and paper - and the bio-industries as well as three between the bio-industries and the end users of bio-based building blocks.
- Establishing 14 new bio-based value chains, by creating a new feedstock, seven new fractionation and conversion technologies and six new end products.
- Validating six chemical building blocks derived from lignin and hemicellulose.
- Validating the advances in readiness levels of various technologies. these will be in the GLV organosolv – from TRL3 to TRL5. It will also progress the downstream innovations to synthesise chemical building blocks and end products are mostly taken from TRL3 to TRL4.