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