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Bio-energy Production and Refinement
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Bio-energy production and refinement

Creating sustainable bioenergy production through integration with biorefinery operations.
Suggested project
AgriChemWhey builds a first-of-a-kind dairy biorefinery
Converting by-products from the dairy processing industry into lactic acid
News from this sector
Italian companies Bio-on and Hera create joint venture to produce bio-plastic from CO2

Italian bio-plastics company Bio-on and multi-utility company Gruppo Hera will be creating a new joint venture (JV) to develop what they describe as a revolutionary technology to produce bio-polymers from carbon dioxide (CO2).
Pine needles from old Christmas trees could be turned into paint and food sweeteners in the future

Abandoned Christmas trees could be saved from landfill and turned into paint and food sweeteners according to new research by the University of Sheffield.
Italian companies Bio-on and Hera create joint venture to produce bio-plastic from CO2 (15/01/2019)
Italian bio-plastics company Bio-on and multi-utility company Gruppo Hera will be creating a new joint venture (JV) to develop what they describe as a revolutionary technology to produce bio-polymers from carbon dioxide (CO2).
"The great technological innovation used at Lux-on enables us to increase the industrial sustainability of a new production concept."

Italian bio-plastics company Bio-on and multi-utility company Gruppo Hera will be creating a new joint venture (JV) to develop what they describe as a revolutionary technology to produce bio-polymers from carbon dioxide (CO2). Bio-on will take 90 per cent of the shares in the company and Gruppo Hera will take 10 per cent, with the possibility of the latter increasing its share to 49.9 per cent in the future. The new company will be called 'Lux-on'.

The innovation developed by the JV aims to revolutionise the production of polyhydroxalkanoates (PHAs) bio-polymers using CO2 captured from the atmosphere and produce energy without using fossil fuels. It will use the CO2 as a zero cost "raw material", in addition to the materials already used to produce Bio-on bioplastics, which include sugar beet, sugarcane molasses, fruit and potato waste, carbohydrates, glycerol and waste frying oil.

The laboratories and first plan for the new Lux-on JV will be built close to Bio-on's industrial facility, based in Castel San Pietro Terme, Bologna, Italy, and is expected to be ready by the end of 2019. In addition to this, the electricity used to power the plant will be produced from solar power.

According to Bio-on, its PHAs can replace a number of conventional polymers currently made with petrochemical processes using hydrocarbons and can also be "completely eco-sustainable and 100 per cent naturally biodegradable."

"The great technological innovation used at Lux-on enables us to increase the industrial sustainability of a new production concept," Bio-on Chairman and CEO Marco Astorri said.

He added: "We are particularly proud to realise humanity's dream to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and produce innovative materials like our PHAs biopolymer. We are ready to face this new challenge, which will further extend our client base in the coming years, consolidating Italy's global leadership in high quality bio-polymer production."

Tomaso Tommasi di Vigano, executive president of Gruppo Hera, said: "For Gruppo Hera, which uses innovation and sustainability as the foundations of its multi-utility business taking a share in the new company founded by Bio-on is the representation of a natural coming together of intentions and an alliance that we believe can be developed successfully beyond our territory and across various sectors."

Pine needles from old Christmas trees could be turned into paint and food sweeteners in the future (15/01/2019)
Abandoned Christmas trees could be saved from landfill and turned into paint and food sweeteners according to new research by the University of Sheffield.
Christmas trees have hundreds of thousands of pine needles which take a long time to decompose compared to other tree leaves. When they rot, they emit huge quantities of greenhouse gases which then contribute to the carbon footprint of the UK.

Cynthia Kartey, a PhD student from the University of Sheffield's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has found that useful products can be made from the chemicals extracted from pine needles when processed.

The major component (up to 85 per cent) of pine needles is a complex polymer known as lignocellulose. The complexity of this polymer makes using pine needles as a product for biomass energy unattractive and useless to most industrial processes.

Cynthia said: "My research has been focused on the breakdown of this complex structure into simple, high-value industrial chemical feedstocks such as sugars and phenolics, which are used in products like household cleaners and mouthwash.

"Biorefineries would be able to use a relatively simple but unexplored process to break down the pine needles."

With the aid of heat and solvents such as glycerol, which is cheap and environmentally friendly, the chemical structure of pine needles is broken down into liquid product (bio-oil) and a solid by-product (bio-char).

The bio-oil typically contains glucose, acetic acid and phenol. These chemicals are used in many industries - glucose in the production of sweeteners for food, acetic for making paint, adhesives and even vinegar.

The process is sustainable and creates zero waste as the solid by-product can be useful too in other industrial chemical processes. Fresh trees and older, abandoned Christmas trees can both be used.

Cynthia continued: "In the future, the tree that decorated your house over the festive period could be turned into paint to decorate your house once again."

The UK uses as many as eight million natural Christmas trees during the festive period every year and sadly, about seven million trees end up in landfill.

If pine needles were collected after Christmas and processed in this way, the chemicals could be used to replace less sustainable chemicals currently used in industry.

This could lead to a decrease in the UK's carbon footprint by reducing the UK's dependence on imported artificial plastic-based Christmas trees and a reduction in the amount of biomass waste going to landfill.

Dr James McGregor, senior lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering said: "The use of biomass - materials derived from plants - to produce fuels and chemicals currently manufactured from fossil resources will play a key role in the future global economy.

"If we can utilise materials that would otherwise go to waste in such processes, thereby recycling them, then there are further benefits.

"In our research group we are currently investigating the production of valuable products from a variety of organic wastes, including forestry sources, spent grain from the brewing industry and food waste; alongside investigating processes for the conversion on carbon dioxide into industrial hydrocarbon compounds."

Bio-based industry gives lukewarm response to UK's first bio-economy strategy (03/01/2019)
£220 billion. That is how much the UK's bio-economy is currently worth. However, the UK government wants to double this value by 2030 and has launched a new strategy to help the country to do so.
The new strategy entitled 'Growing the bioeconomy: Improving lives strengthening the economy' was launched last week with the help of industry stakeholders. Although the strategy was welcomed in general, some industry experts have given it a lukewarm response.

The main aim of the strategy is it "create the right national and international market conditions" for bio-based solutions such as compostable plastics and biofuels to thrive in the UK.

In the strategy's foreword statement, Minister of Business and Industry Richard Harrington said: "A strong and vibrant bio-economy harnesses the power of bioscience and biotechnology, transforming the way we address challenges in food, chemicals, materials, energy and fuel production, health and the environment. The potential benefits are significant, as we develop low-carbon bio-based products and processes that will improve our daily lives.

"Growing our bio-economy will ensure that the UK becomes an inviting and vibrant place to invest and do business, supporting innovation and stimulating economic growth."

He went on to say that the government wanted the UK to become a "global leader" in developing, manufacturing, using and exporting bio-based solutions in order to help to move it towards a low-carbon future.

The 60-page strategy looks at the global challenges the world faces in relation to climate, plastics pollution, food and health, and how bio-economy businesses can contribute solutions to these problems.

Four main goals are set out:
• Capitalise on the UK's world-class research, development and innovations base to grow the bio-economy
• Maximise productivity and potential from existing UK bioeconomy assets
• Deliver real, measurable benefits for the UK economy
• Create the right societal and market conditions to allow innovative bio-based products and services to thrive

David Newman, managing director at trade body Bio-Based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBiA), gave the strategy a lukewarm response. Although he welcomed the strategy, he told Bio-Based World News in a statement that the strategy set out a "trajectory but was very short on policies and actions".

He added: "Perhaps this was to be expected but some will find the lack of policy direction somewhat disconcerting - at times it appears to be a document compiled from a wish-list of contributors like ourselves, without determining where government will intervene in practice. For example, we have phrases such as "we must support different disciplines working together, using this to unlock their full potential and helping to solve challenges at all stages of research and development across the bio-economy."

Newman said there was nothing to object to with the latter phrase, but it was lacking in "how?" details.

Dr Adrian Higson, company director and lead consultant for bio-based product for UK bioeconomy consultants NNFCC, echoed Newman's sentiments. He told Bio-Based World News: "We welcome the publication of the strategy which represents two years of stakeholders consultation and development. However, it is disappointing that the strategy is limited on concrete policy actions and in many ways fails to give the UK bioeconomy a much-needed boost.

"The recent closure of key ethanol assets and the cessation of the successful IB Catalyst innovation programme (R&D industrial biotechnology programme) are disappointing: with stronger government ambition and support these closures could have been avoided. There's now a lot of work required to turn the Strategy's aspirations into real actions, this includes immediate action to secure the Bioeconomy Sector Deal necessary to reach the target of doubling the value of the UK's bio-economy by 2030."

Next Steps
Separately, the UK government announced in the strategy that it will create a new governance group to support, monitor and evaluate the delivery of the bio-economy strategy and related activities. Industry leaders will need to work with representatives from government, research and innovation bodies to provide leadership and guidance in the delivery stage of this strategy, the UK government said in a statement.

British Airways clears the runway for sustainable fuel takeoff (03/01/2019)
British Airways has challenged academics from across the UK to develop a sustainable jet fuel capable of powering a long-haul commercial flight.
The airline wants to use the fuel to carry up to 300 customers with zero net emissions, as part of a goal to balance growth in aviation with sustainable development and benefit the environment and wider society.

The winner of the challenge will receive £25,000 to help fund further research and a commitment from the airline to help develop their research.

Nominations will be judged by a panel of industry experts based on the idea's carbon reduction potential, as well as its innovation, value to the UK economy and feasibility to implement.

Alex Cruz, Chairman and CEO of British Airways, said: "The UK can lead the world in the development and production of sustainable alternative fuels, which will play a key role in decarbonising aviation, as well as delivering benefits for employment, exports and waste reduction.

"Some of the best scientific minds in this field are based in the UK and are brilliantly equipped to develop a pathway for the UK to achieve global leadership in the development of sustainable alternative aviation fuels."

BIO4ECO: A game changer to sustainable regional bioenergy policies (03/01/2019)
The Interreg EU-funded BIO4ECO project aims at deepening the role of biomass within programs and emerging regional plans for the bioenergy and the bioeconomy.
The constant growth of the world's population entails an increasing demand of resources. As a result, pressure on land use, forests and ecosystems is growing within an environment marked by the effects of climate change.

Biomass is an increasingly requested resource for bioenergy production. However, as far, very few regions have developed holistic policies or integrated strategies for a transition towards a low-carbon economy focusing on products made by natural renewable resources. Managers of bioenergy resources should be at the centre of the political debate, instead of undergoing and adapting to decisions taken by other responsible.

BIO4ECO will help regional and national policies to advance towards the carbon neutrality by using biomass as an energy source thanks to a better focus and synergy in terms of target selection and financing. Thus, the project will provide a renewed vision on political implications of energy and climate policies at the local level, that is, a more complementary and integrated approach.

BIO4ECO expects to address two key aspects of regional policies:
1. The incentive of mechanisms to support investments in carbon-neutral impact projects and technologies;
2. The reduction of overlaps and conflicts of policies related to the availability of bioenergy resources through the integration into a broader bioeconomy strategy.

The main objectives of BIO4ECO are:
1. To increase the share of renewables in the overall energy mix, promoting and facilitating the production and distribution of bioenergy.
2. To take into account bioenergy and bioeconomy in all planning and decision-making processes through greater interdepartmental coordination, highlighting the role of forests within regional programmes and strategies.
3. To lay the groundwork for future integrated strategies and programmes for regional bioeconomy and carbon neutrality, gaining the social acceptance of these policies.

BIO4ECO achievements so far and next steps

Phase 1, which has just been conducted, focused on the process of interregional and local learning through thematic workshops. These meetings, as an occasion to share problems and learning needs of all partners, were followed by study visits to provide an opportunity to know and share best practices and concrete experiences.

Each of the ten partners contributed by presenting and sharing their own policy instruments related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the agricultural and forest biomass. The case studies were about:
• Reducing the dependence on fossil fuels and increase the thermal uses of forest biomass in Catalonia.
• Towards oil free and carbon neutral North Karelia through forest bioeconomy.
• The development of a Latvian bioeconomy strategy and an effective land use for low carbon economy.
• Engaging French municipalities in a climate mitigation and adaptation strategy in order to influence GHG emissions.
• Determining the Slovenian policy of sustainable forest management to meet a higher share of wood usage in the primary energy balance.
• Improving energy technologies and energy efficiency connected with the production and usage of solid wood biomass in Bulgaria.
• Promotions of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in SMEs aimed at reducing energy consumption and gas emissions in Abruzzo.
• Supporting energy efficiency, intelligent management of energy and use of renewable energy sources in public buildings as residential houses in Centru.

BIO4ECO fostering dialogue with decision makers and other relevant stakeholders

BIO4ECO has allowed creating communication channels within the governments involved and different areas of policy, alongside the official administrative structure. It has thus improved the ability to promote open dialogue, creative thinking and cooperation and connections with all decision makers involved in land use, industrial, agricultural and energy policies and local government.

Furthermore, a group has been created in each partner's country to include stakeholders and experts in the issue addressed by their policy instrument. These groups have been acting in two ways:
1. Participants have learnt through the different dissemination and knowledge transfer activities of the project, and they have contributed in drawing up the action plan of the policy instrument of their region.
2. Acting as a relay towards other local stakeholders disseminating the project's activity results in their local socioeconomic framework.

All regions have just presented their action plans regarding regional/national challenges of current and future policies, integrating the lessons learned during the first phased of the project. The second phase of BIO4ECO will focus on action plans implementation.

Public-private partnerships BBI JU and SPIRE publish joint statement on team-up for synergy of actio (22/11/2018)
Following the collaborative work of the past years, BBI JU and SPIRE launched on the 2 October 2018 a joint statement on team-up for synergy of actions
Over the past years, the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) and the Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency (SPIRE) have been jointly searching for collaborative ways of maximising their impact. Particularly in 2012, a document identifying the docking points between the two public-private partnerships (PPPs) has been prepared, with the aim of ensuring mutual support. Later on in 2016, these two PPPs operating under Horizon 2020 have established a Joint Working Group to coordinate the activities of seeking complementarities and synergies between the two bodies. SusChem has been a valuable partner in supporting the Joint Working Group to achieve the different milestones along the way.

Following the collaborative work of the past years, BBI JU and SPIRE launched on the 2 October 2018 a joint statement on team-up for synergy of actions, with the objective of assessing the added-value generated by the two initiatives working in parallel and to specify the main achievements of the actions taken up to date. This initiative reaffirms the commitment of both organisations to work towards synergies and complementarities.

The full statement can be found here.