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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.
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Closing the loop for Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHP) waste
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Exploitation and Revaluation of Chicken Manure as Biomass

The EC-funded CHIMERA LIFE project is a step-change in the biomass sector as it is proposing a new waste-to-energy plant designed to burn chicken manure.
EIP-Agri Operational Group to coordinate Ireland's first small-scale biorefinery demonstration

The Biorefinery Glas project aims to address key challenges in Irish agriculture while promoting farmer diversification into Ireland's growing bioeconomy
Exploitation and Revaluation of Chicken Manure as Biomass (18/02/2019)
The EC-funded CHIMERA LIFE project is a step-change in the biomass sector as it is proposing a new waste-to-energy plant designed to burn chicken manure.
Chicken manure is a massive problem for EU because it is generating copious amounts of ammonia polluting soil, water and air. The CHIMERA project is addressing this relevant issue by means of an innovative waste-to-energy plant which perfectly fits a distributed-energy scheme, by providing district-size energy production. It is a valuable example of closed-cycle reuse and symbiosis within farmers and fertiliser's production value-chains. CHIMERA is aiming at a circular business. By burning manure, CHIMERA will lead to remarkable economic savings for farmers, due to avoided disposal, plus electric and thermal energy produced by an ORC group included into the biomass plant.

The new CHIMERA technology
The innovative technology which is being developed by 3P Engineering, is the first one to almost fully recover nitrogen from manure and turn most of the waste into an N-P-K rich fertiliser, with few ashes and sludge as final waste to be disposed. By doing so, it will cut a huge cost for manure disposal and turn it into a possible saving/profit for every farm willing to install the plant and able to use or sell the new fertiliser.

The difference between traditional process and CHIMERA technology
Manure disposal impacts heavily on GHG emissions via Ammonia and generates million tons of waste per year. Up to now, it has been a burden for farmers and a special waste. The traditional process includes: strict regulations, stock within the farm with awful smell for the neighbourhood, high transport costs, need for waste treatment and reliance on external companies (e.g. for direct disposal, incinerators, biogas).

The state-of-the-art treatment relates to centralised, medium and large size plants. No plant can be reported with the expected cost-benefit balance of CHIMERA. The expected LIFE CHIMERA innovation improves the state of the art performances of biomass plants based on poultry manure and targets a future business made of smaller scale plants, delivering:

- "As-it-is" manure (no drying is required)

- Low temperature avoiding de-NOx stage

- Sludges which are rich in N, in P, and in K, completing the formation of raw material to produce NPK fertiliser, already hydrated and ready for transformation, whereas state-of-the-art plants present very low N

- A smaller size of plants (target 7000 tons/yy, able to produce at least 700 tons/yy of NPK fertiliser) to address different target users with a localised approach

An in-depth overview of CHIMERA process
More in detail: while manure is introduced as such in the combustor (maximum allowed water content = 60%), without any preliminary drying or briquetting treatment, the burner / boiler performs a diffusive combustion of the biomass, without any tube bundle directly exposed to the biomass or to the flames or the fumes. The boiler does not provide moving parts and is inherently simpler and cheaper to build and to conduct, while ensuring a fine combustion regulation thanks to the direct intake of combustion air with precise control of internal temperatures.

The proposed system is intrinsically capable of breaking down powders (PM <50) and the flue gas treatment system is simplified: the average outlet temperature from the combustor is extremely low, with a limited emission of fine particles.

As a key to its expected success, CHIMERA allows high recovery of nitrogen paving the way to a N-P-K rich by-product to be sold or used. Its extraction comes from the fumes through the treatment water of a two-stage scrubber: in the first phase a "wet throat Venturi Scrubber" is used, suitably modified to inject water mixed with the just-produced ashes; in the second phase the fumes pass through a counter-current Scrubber before entering the atmosphere. The aqueous treatment solution is gradually concentrated on the Scrubber collecting tank in the form of sludge, which is periodically extracted and stored in suitable tanks for the subsequent chemical-physical analyzes. The sludge is then disposed of as waste characterized after having assigned its EWC. The sludge-free water is reused to continuously feed both Scrubbers; a reintegration system with external water is exclusively provided for the first start-up of the system.

The main achievements and potential future activities
CHIMERA has successfully gone through the first tests on the field and in the labs, proving the quality of the ashes and the energy output. A lean approach has kept improving the system before the realization of the first actual size prototype, to be built in the Netherlands.

Two demonstrators were under test in Italy and a final prototype will be hosted in Spring 2019 by a Dutch farmer, the family-owned company Renders & Renders, project partner.

So far, CHIMERA raised the interest of the international community and 3P Engineering was invited to present it in two main international events: the Clean Air Forum held in Paris in November 2017 and Ecomondo trade faire held in Rimini, Italy, in November 2018.

To bypass current hurdles, the project is connecting decision makers, fertilizer producers and farmers to explore all the steps needed to test this business and close the cycle between farmers and fertilizer producers.If interested in joining our External Users' Advisory Board, please write to


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EIP-Agri Operational Group to coordinate Ireland's first small-scale biorefinery demonstration (07/02/2019)
The Biorefinery Glas project aims to address key challenges in Irish agriculture while promoting farmer diversification into Ireland's growing bioeconomy
Ireland's "Biorefinery Glas" EIP-Agri Operational Group, will coordinate Ireland's first small-scale biorefinery demonstration project, having secured funding of almost €1m from EIP-Agri co-funded by Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and the EU. The Biorefinery Glas project, which sees Institute of Technology, Tralee partner with University College Dublin, the Carbery and Barryroe Agri Co-operatives and Wageningen University-spinout GRASSA BV, aims to address key challenges in Irish agriculture while promoting farmer diversification into Ireland's exciting and growing bioeconomy.

"Biorefinery Glas is one of the first bioeconomy initiatives in Europe which looks at moving farmers further up the bioeconomy value-chain; becoming bio-processors, rather than simply suppliers of low-cost biomass" according to project Co-ordinator James Gaffey of IT Tralee. "The EU Commission in its recent Bioeconomy Strategy update have highlighted the important role of primary producers within the bioeconomy. It has also highlighted the role that small-scale biorefineries can play in allowing farmers to diversify their income base in a sustainable manner. Through Biorefinery Glas, farmers will demonstrate new business models, using an automated and low-cost biorefinery model, which integrates well within traditional beef and dairy farming and could be replicated across Ireland and the EU, helping to improve protein availability and reduce emissions while adding value".

The project will demonstrate an integrated and mobile multi-product biorefinery which optimises the use of grass by separating it into a spectrum of co-products which improve value and resource efficiency. The first step is to isolate from the grass, the proteins that cows use most effectively, while separating the remainder of the protein, which cows don't utilise as well, for use as a co-product feed for pigs or chickens. This approach improves the efficiency of nitrogen use for milk production, while providing pigs and chickens, who would otherwise not be able to access grass protein, an indigenous source of protein concentrate. Given Ireland's dependency on feed imports, particularly in light of recent national fodder crises, a mechanism for improving protein efficiency is timely. An expected benefit of improving the nitrogen use efficiency for milk, includes a potential reduction in nitrogen loses and ammonia-related emissions for the dairy sector.

An additional value-added co-product in fructooligsaccarides, will be extracted from the deproteinized grass whey, with potential applications as a prebiotic in food/feed and as an ingredient in cosmetic solutions. Once the relevant products are extracted, large volumes of nutrient-rich whey can then be used as a fertilizer or as a co-substrate for biomethane production through anaerobic digestion.

The project will also assess new rural bioeconomy business models, and the opportunity to promote farm-to-farm bioeconomy symbiosis, through dairy farmers and pig farmers working together to improve availability of local indigenous protein. The on-farm nature of the biorefinery means that circular bioeconomy principles can be adhered to, with process residues which do not end up in products, remaining on the farm as a fertilizer or energy source. The project comes at a critical moment for both Ireland and the EU, with the Commission's proposal for the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) aiming to make a much stronger contribution to the sustainable development agenda.


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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."