Project summary

The aim of the ReTAPP (ReThink All Plastic Packaging) project is to produce fructose from hardwood: a conversion for which has never been commercialised before. With current methods, hardwood is very hard to fractionate to sugars. In addition, most of the sugars in hardwood are glucose and xylose, which need to be transformed to fructose. The ReTAPP project will make this process technologically and economically feasible with the help of enzymatic solutions. The fructose thus produced can then be converted into MMF (methoxymethylfurfural) and 5-HMF (5-(Hydroxymethyl)furfural), to be used to produce PEF (polyethylene furanoate) – a bio-based alternative to replace the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastics, with enhanced barrier, thermal and mechanical properties over existing packaging materials.

The project concept is illustrated in Figure 1.

In the ReTAPP project, the processes will be optimized and piloted by the three partners: SEKAB, a technology provider for the wood-to-sugars technology; Avantium, world leader in the production of PEF; and MetGen, the provider of the enzymes to make the processes more economically and environmentally sustainable.

Thus, the main objectives of the project can be summarized to demonstrate the production of fructose from hardwood and prepare the whole value chain for the market introduction of this wood-based fructose and the PEF bottles made from that, including:

  1. Verify that sugars from depolymerised hardwood are suitable for the conversion to fructose and to polymers: With the yield and other process performance obtained, calculations will be carried out for commercial scale production, regarding investment and operation costs.
  2. Demonstrate an increase in the reducible sugar yield by 10 % in the hydrolysis phase.
  3. Demonstrate a reduction of 10 % in energy use throughout all the wood processing phases.
  4. Demonstrate a reduction in the fructose price of more than 18 %, in comparison to the price of food-based fructose on the markets today (0.5€/kg).
  5. Do three production campaigns with the production rate of 2,000 kilograms of hardwood-based fructose, with yields of more than 80 % of theoretical.
  6. Demonstrate the process from wood-based fructose to polymers, using the fructose produced by SEKAB, and producing enough PEF resin for the production of 10.000 0,5l PEF bottles.

As a result of a successful execution of this project, MetGen will have several novel enzymatic solutions to market and supply to hardwood-to-chemicals processes; SEKAB a proprietary wood-to-sugars process technology that can be licenced out; and Avantium a new, non-food based renewable source of raw material. Within 36 months of the project start, the solution is expected to hit the markets: already per year 2018, a modest estimation for early stage production of this wood-based fructose is 120 tons, and already within the project, the PEF resin will be shipped to Avantium’s partners for evaluation. These multinational companies and foreseen customers include Coca Cola and Danone which have strong interest in adopting bio-based packaging for their products – both of them also participate in the External Advisory Board of this project.

Avantium estimates the yearly market for fructose for biochemicals to be of 1.5 million tons by 2021. By 2018, Avantium’s commercial demonstration plant will be on stream making a rapid increase to the production of wood-based fructose, reaching 10 000-20 000 ton / year by the end of the decade. Already at less than 10% market capture of the enzymatic solutions for fructose production by 2021, the sales of MetGen enzymes for this application are estimated to exceed 10 M€, while another 10M€ could be saved in fructose production costs.

Objectives & Achievements

  1. Verify that sugars from depolymerised hardwood are suitable for the conversion to fructose and to polymers: With the yield and other process performance obtained, calculations will be carried out for commercial scale production, regarding investment and operation costs.
  2. Demonstrate an increase in the reducible sugar yield by 10 % in the hydrolysis phase.
  3. Demonstrate a reduction of 10 % in energy use throughout all the wood processing phases.
  4. Demonstrate a reduction in the fructose price of more than 18 %, in comparison to the price of food-based fructose on the markets today (0.5€/kg).
  5. Do three production campaigns with the production rate of 2,000 kilograms of hardwood-based fructose, with yields of more than 80 % of theoretical.
  6. Demonstrate the process from wood-based fructose to polymers, using the fructose produced by SEKAB, and producing enough PEF resin for the production of 10.000 0,5l PEF bottles.
1
Technology routes assessed and best alternative selected
2
Enzyme prototype found to fully function in hydrolysate
3
Demo trials for glucose production
4
Enzyme production scaled up to industrial scale
5
Fructose production for process validation
6
Wood-based PEF-bottle production validated

Our progress

50%