Project summary

Within this APEX (Advanced Process Economics through Oxidoreductases) project, MetZyme® is going to be brought to industrial production for market demonstration at commercial scale within two target industries: P&P mills and biorefinery pilots. Both these industries are in a great need of more efficient processes with lower costs, and MetGen can offer them cost-efficient, tailored enzyme solutions. The current enzyme solutions do not function in the harsh industrial conditions (high temperature, pressure, high/low pH and short retention time) that MetGen’s enzymes are adapted for. The use of competing enzymatic solutions requires alterations to the process and capital investments, whereas MetZyme ® is used as a drop-in solution that requires no or very small capital investment. As processes, pre-treatment systems and conditions differ between customers, it is important to be able to adapt the enzymes to different needs. Due to the experience in genetic engineering and large base of available enzyme strains, MetGen can offer customized enzymes to each customer and for a variety of lignocellulosic substrates. In addition, biorefinery and P&P processes have significant similarities, allowing the enzymatic solutions developed for P&P to be directly used in many biorefinery applications.

In the APEX project, MetGen will illustrate the full potential of MetZyme®, the novel production system, and the team behind it by transferring the effects proven in lab and pilot scale to commercial applications. Furthermore, this will be done in an economically feasible way – changing the perception that enzymatic solutions are expensive in comparison to mechanical or chemical ones, and being a strong competitor for these on the target markets. MetGen aspires to be recognized as one of the world’s most significant enzyme developers and providers. The APEX project makes it possible for the company to bridge the gap between pilot and industrial scale, and thus become profitable by the end of this project.

The main objectives of the APEX project are to

  • scale up the production process of MetZyme® from the 400 l lab-scale pilot capacity up to 10 m3 and further, and to commission the large-scale industrial production in the scale of
    50 m3–150 m3 at European contract manufacturers’ facilities;
  • reduce the production costs (50 % reduction of raw material costs, 100 % improvement in fermentation yield, 60 % improvement in productivity)
  • optimise logistics and the whole supply chain in order to further improve MetGen’s competitiveness;
  • demonstrate and quantify MetZyme®’s customer benefits in field trials to allow for market uptake
    1. P&P: energy savings of up to 30 % and bleaching chemical reduction of up to 50 % in thermomechanical pulping,
    2. biorefineries: 50-80 % reduction in the amount of cellulase needed, time for hydrolysis reduced from 72 to 24h;
    3. The data from the trials, demonstrating the safety and potential of energy savings and quality improvements, will be essential for convincing potential customers also in new markets.
  • by the end of the project, serve 1–3 large European customers in the P&P industry with an enzyme solution produced by 1–3 European contract manufacturers, with industrial enzyme concentrate volumes.
  • make MetGen ready for the biorefinery market replication by demonstrating the chemical and economic feasibility of MetZyme® in collaboration partners’ processes, proving its effect on the pilot scale and developing necessary cost models.

As a result of a successful execution, at the end of the APEX project, MetGen will with its current portfolio be competitive against competing solutions.

Objectives & Achievements

In the Description of Action annex of the project grant application there is a list the specific objectives for the project. In the following the list is covered with remarks on current status on the objectives.

1)         scale up the production process of MetZyme® from the 400 l lab-scale pilot capacity up to 10 m3 and further, and to commission the large-scale industrial production in the scale of 50 m3–150 m3 at European contract manufacturers’ facilities;

  • MetGen has successfully scaled-up several enzymes to 400L and 2 have been successfully industrialized to 50m3 production during project APEX. 3 technology transfers have been made to further improve the productivity of the technology platform. Robustness of the created technology platform can be illustrated by the fact that MetGen has now scaled up enzymes with 100% success rate. MetGe has been always able to repeat the performance in various scales.

2)         reduce the production costs (50 % reduction of raw material costs, 100 % improvement in fermentation yield, 60 % improvement in productivity)

  • Through the R&D work on the enzyme itself, production development and the successful technology transfers to production scale MetGen has reduced the cost of final product 10-fold during the project APEX. At the same time the fermentation yield has gone up by 5-fold. It is safe to say the objective is well met.

3)         optimise logistics and the whole supply chain in order to further improve MetGen’s competitiveness;

  • MetGen has been successfully able to supply up to 5000L valumes of material to customer site reliably on time. MetGen has also managed to ship material to Asia, North and South America, and has created processes for sales and logistics to rely upon. Outsourcing logistic services to 4P logistics company Wiima Oy has greatly helped in optimizing the logistics. For the second year of APEX MetGen needs to build and optimize inventories and put the supply-chain to true test with actual trailing sales in large quantities.

4)         demonstrate and quantify MetZyme®’s customer benefits in field trials to allow for market uptake

  1. P&P: energy savings of up to 30 % and bleaching chemical reduction of up to 50 % in thermomechanical pulping,
  • MetGen has been able to demonstrate 32% energy saving for TMP in lab scale in Grenoble University CTP department for TMP applications. In mill trials 12% energy saving has been demonstrated with a drop-in enzyme solution.
  • In tissue and packaging applications >50% energy savings in refining have been demonstrated in mill scale.
  • Bleaching has been demonstrated in mill scale but in the addressed applications this has proven to be less interesting to the customers in relation to fibre quality improvement and energy saving
  • MetGen has showed additional fibre quality improvements and process control improvements especially on the tissue and packaging applications.
  1. biorefineries: 50-80 % reduction in the amount of cellulase needed, time for hydrolysis reduced from 72 to 24h;
  • MetGen has shown ability to reduce cellulase dosing by >50% with pretreated lignocellulosic substrates. The results vary according to the material and pretreatment applied. Furthermore MetGen focuses to improve the hydrolysis performance of enzymes especially in biomasses with high dry matter content, as this enables significant Capex and Opex savings for 2nd generation biorefineries.
  • MetGen has been able to reduce the time required for the hydrolysis from 72 to 48 hours with certain substrates without compromising the sugar yield or adding on cellulase dosage.
  • It is worth noting that above mentioned benefits haven’t been achieved simultaneously. Improvements can be fully utilized either as reduced dosage or time, not both at the same time.
  1. The data from the trials, demonstrating the safety and potential of energy savings and quality improvements, will be essential for convincing potential customers also in new markets.
  • MetGen has used the data from successful mill trials to create business cases that support sales. MetGen now has 3 such business cases in active use: TMP energy saving, tissue application and fluting application for board.

5)         by the end of the project, serve 1–3 large European customers in the P&P industry with an enzyme solution produced by 2–3 European contract manufacturers, with enzyme concentrate volumes of 500m3/annum. This translates to an annual fermentation of more than 5,000 m3.

  • MetGen has lined up two immediate customers for tissue and packaging applications that match the criteria of being large European P&P companies. Final tests are being done in mill scale and enzyme used in these trials is paid by the customers.

6)         make MetGen ready for the biorefinery market replication by demonstrating the chemical and economic feasibility of MetZyme® in collaboration partners’ processes, proving its effect on the pilot scale and developing necessary cost models.

  • MetGen’s technology platform serves biorefinery industries as well as P&P industry. On top of current capability of creating novel enzymes in industry-leading time-frame (<1 year from idea to industrial solution), MetGen is also capable of utilizing enzymes created for P&P industry for lignocellulosic biomass processing.
  • MetGen has created strong competence in application testing of woody substrates which aligns MetGen’s efforts in both industries: P&P and biorefining for renewable chemicals.
  • MetGen has several large collaboration partners that are in possession of significant existing infrastructure in 1st generation biochemicals/fuels as well as pilot facilities in 2nd generation renewable chemicals.
  • MetGen has been able to position itself a a first choice for many companies in search for technology partner in biotechnology and enzyme manufacturing
  • MetGen has widened the network in biobased industries during and because of APEX and success in executing the industrialization and demonstration of products in industrial scale.
  • MetGen has been contacted by potential strategic partners for assessment of future opportunities in this area. Negotiations are ongoing.

As a result of a successful execution, at the end of the APEX project, MetGen will with its current portfolio operate above the break-even point and be competitive against competing solutions.

  • MetGen has – at half-way point of the project – already demonstrated unparalleled performance in industrial applications. MetGen continues to develop the enzymatic solutions within the scope of the project APEX.
  • Most importantly MetGen continues the successful market demonstration to exceed the sales objectives by the end of the Project.
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Project started
5
Production sites assessed and selected
6
Argreements to run industrial trials in pulp mills
12
Full scale production at production sites
18
Trailing Sales
24
End of Project

Our progress

60%