VEHICLE

Valorise Extensive quantities of HemIcellulosic and Cellulosic sugars from Lignocellulosic biomass into high-value End products

Summary

Modern pulp mills seek to valorise as many components as possible from their feedstock. This offers benefits to both the pulp mills – making them more profitable – and society, by reducing the environmental impacts. However, this process faces a number of challenges, including low technology readiness levels and competition from cheap fossil fuels. For second-generation biorefineries, it is vital to overcome these challenges.

For pulp mills, the main side-stream is hemicellulose-containing process liquors, which have little commercial value, given the difficulties isolating and purifying the hemicellulose carbohydrates. However, the high level of hemicellulose in both hard and soft woods represents a vast untapped carbohydrate resource available for production of high-value products. It also represents a large potential revenue stream for modern biorefineries, helping underpin their long-term viability.

The VEHICLE project will demonstrate novel biotechnological and non-biotechnological technologies for valorising dilute hemicellulose-containing side-streams from pulp mills.

Description

Objectives: 

As well as its main objective of increasing the overall viability of biorefineries, notably pulp mills, the VEHICLE project aims to deliver on a number of objects. Specifically, it will:

  • Replace oil-based materials in pulp and paper applications with hemicellulose polymers. The replacement polymers will be fully biodegradable while not competing with resources for food and feed production.
  • Convert a large portion of the organic material from pulp mills, currently considered a waste product, into valuable products by valorising a side-stream.
  • Reduce water consumption substantially – by up to 70 percent – with associated improvements in energy consumption. This will improve the economics of the process and reduce its environmental impact.
  • Reduce CO2 emissions. Renewable feedstocks have a smaller environmental footprint and can replace fossil-based building block production with hemicellulose-derived alternatives and replace food-based starches currently used in paper manufacturing.
Expected impacts: 

The VEHICLE project aims to enhance the business potential of existing and future European biorefineries. It also aims to have specific impacts. It will:

  • Develop a number of cross-sectoral interconnections between various hemicellulose-based feedstock producers – specifically pulp mills and biorefinery plants - and process technology developers. These include sugar feedstock from novel biorefineries and polyester-based bioplastic producers; hardwood-based sugar feedstock and glycol production and pulp industry side-streams and novel hemicellulose-based polymer products for replacing aluminium and oil- and food-based polymers.
  • Establish nine new bio-based value chains. These include using pulp mill side-streams as a raw material source for high-performing polymers with equal or superior performance to incumbents and a range of value chains converting sugar streams into intermediate molecules for producing building block chemicals and compostable polyesters.
  • Create nine new consumer products. These include surface treatment chemicals for paper and board solutions,  mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) for bio-PET (bottles & fibres), glycol antifreeze and de-icing products and bioplastics for films and other non-food-contact packaging applications.
  • It will also contribute to the EU’s commitments on reducing CO2 emissions and it’s circular economy ambitions.