RETAPP – ENABLING THE VALUE-CHAIN
The main objectives of the ReTAPP project are to demonstrate the production of fructose from wood-based feedstock and to prepare the whole value chain for the market introduction of PEF resin using this fructose. The processes will be optimised and demonstrated by the three consortium partners: SEKAB, a technology provider for the wood-to-sugars technology; Avantium, world leader in the production of PEF; and MetGen, which provides the enzymes to make the processes more economically and environmentally sustainable.
MetGen Oy (Coordinator) is an innovative Finnish SME which designs and markets novel MetZyme® enzymatic solutions for the most challenging of industrial conditions enabling novel applications and combinations with other enzymes to meet our customer specific need. MetGen has developed a very cost-effective and streamlined development and manufacturing process of industrial enzymes that can easily be adopted to any required changes and parameters in industrial production. In ReTAPP, MetGen will develop and provide other consortium partners tailored industrial enzymes and enzymatic solutions for their existing process, both for the recovery of reducing sugars from woody biomass by enzymatic hydrolysis and bioconversion of Glucose to Fructose. MetGen has a technology platform – ENZINE® (TRL 8) – in place to develop novel industrial enzymes and further tailored existing solutions for specific needs in fast, flexible and adaptable manner.
SEKAB E-Technology is one of Europe’s leading ethanol manufacturers. We convert and refine ethanol to biofuels and chemicals and develop new cellulose based biorefinery technology. We believe that sustainability is about resources that last now and in the future. The company is a part of the SEKAB group and has the head quarter and main production in Örnsköldsvik at the Baltic Sea. SEKAB has long experience of advanced research regarding development and scale-up of process technology. SEKAB has over 10 years of experience of demo plant tests and operations running in 24/7. Experience and data from pre-engineering of softwood based ethanol plants in Sweden. In ReTAPP, SEKAB will offer its advanced pre-treatment and hydrolysis platform, CelluAPP® for an efficient and sustainable process to depolymerise cellulose materials, such as forest and agricultural residues, to sugars.
Avantium Chemicals BV was founded in 2000 as a spin-off from Royal Dutch Shell, specialised in high-throughput research in the fields of catalyst testing development. This part of the company now focuses solely on catalysis research, providing expertise and high-tech equipment to the chemical industry. Since 2005 the company has been applying its advanced catalysis research expertise in the field of biomass conversion in order to develop building blocks for a biobased economy. The first of these projects has led to the development of the YXY process, which deals with the conversion of sugars into furanics. From these furanics polyethylene furanoate, a replacement for PET (polyethylene terephtalate) with considerably improved properties, can be produced. This process is now on its way to commercialisation due to the formation of Synvina, a joint venture together with BASF, in October 2016.. The success of the YXY process has spawned a number of new projects in the field of renewables, including ReTAPP, leading to processes for 2nd generation biomass conversion into sugars and other useful base chemicals. Avantium is continually exploring novel ideas for biobased replacements of current fossil-based products and processes, as well as the development of applications for side-streams generated by different biomass feedstocks.
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:
- 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.
- Demonstrate an increase in the reducible sugar yield by 10 % in the hydrolysis phase.
- Demonstrate a reduction of 10 % in energy use throughout all the wood processing phases.
- 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).
- Do three production campaigns with the production rate of 2,000 kilograms of hardwood-based fructose, with yields of more than 80 % of theoretical.
- 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.
• MetGen has developed novel glucose isomerase capable of efficiently converting wood-based glucose into fructose even in crude hydrolysates, showing much better results than the enzymes used in commercial fructose production.
• MetGen has achieved over 50% glucose to fructose conversion in lab-scale.
• MetGen has successfully scaled up the production of glucose isomerase to pilot scale.
• SEKAB has demonstrated the production of cellulosic sugars from wood-based feedstock with over 80% glucose yield from cellulose.
• SEKAB has developed and demonstrated a process for the separation of xylose rich liquid streams from the solid cellulose stream in the Biorefinery Demo Plant, which improves the conditions for enzymatic hydrolysis.
• MetGen has demonstrated that the addition of the MetZyme® SUNO™ booster to hydrolysis solutions used in SEKAB CelluAPP® process increases sugar yield by 25%-30% and decreases the enzyme dosage by 50%.
• SEKAB has tested and verified the CelluAPP® conversion process to handle pulp chips and even wood chips of larger size and still maintain the process yields. That indicates less need for energy consuming mechanical treatment before the CelluAPP® conversion process.
• SEKAB has produced glucose and xylose both from hardwood and softwood during the project and already produced a total sugar amount of more than 2000 kg wood-based sugars.
• Avantium is working on novel glucose/fructose separation technology to be able to make a feed high in fructose from the batches provided by MetGen. This technology should significantly reduce costs as well as lower the environmental burden of glucose/fructose separations.
• Avantium has developed and is currently in the final stages of building and commissioning novel parallel flow equipment to carry out experiments with C5 xylose/xylulose as well as fructose enriched C6 sugar feeds to prove the suitability of SEKAB and MetGen solutions to produce fructose from hardwood for the production of FDCA and PEF.
Selected conferences presentations:
MetGen: “Highly Effective Enzyme Solutions for Cellulosic Biomass Conversion” at Creating Bioeconomic Growth – Industrial Biotechnology Business Seminar, 2 June, 2016, Aalto Design Factory, Espoo, Finland
MetGen: “Enzymatic challenges in modern biorefineries” at Lignofuels 2016 Conference, 20-21 January 2016, Munich, Germany
Conferences attended to promote ReTAPP:
TAPPI’s 2016 International Bioenergy and Bioproducts Conference (IBBC) 28–30 September, 2016, Jacksonville, FL, USA.
International Wood Biorefining (IWB) Week 2016, 24-26 May, 2106, Stockholm, Sweden.
Creating Bioeconomic Growth – Industrial Biotechnology Business Seminar, 2 June, 2016, Aalto Design Factory, Espoo, Finland
OxiZymes 2016, 8th European Meeting on OxiZymes, 3-6 July 2016, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Lignobiotech IV Symposium, 4th Symposium on Biotechnology applied to Lignocelluloses, 19-22 June, 2016, Madrid, Spain
World Bio Markets (WBM) 2016, 14-17 March 2016, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
RISI European 2016, 18th Annual RISI European Conference, 29 February – 02 March 2016, Berlin, Germany
Lignofuels 2016 Conference, 20-21 January 2016, Munich, Germany
Other relevant EU H2020 projects:
BIO-based products from FORestry via Economically Viable European Routes (BIOFOREVER).
Other interesting links :
Avantium – Renewable Chemistry – The Only Way is Up (video)
Matti Heikkilä, CTO of MetGen: A clear path ahead of the bioeconomy– Expert opinion in European Biotechnology Life Science and Industry Magazine, 2017
The ReTAPP project has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement no 691414.