MetGen Industrializes 4 Novel Enzymatic Technologies at Once in Integrated Biorefinery Flagship Project

Kaarina, Finland, MetGen – industrial enzyme solution provider, is moving forward in an industrial demonstration of it’s four novel biorefinery solutions: Tailored hydrolysis solution, Enzymatic lignin depolymerization, Lignocellulosic glucose isomerization, and Glucose conversion to glucosone. The demonstration takes place as a part of partially publicly funded EU Flagship project SWEETWOODS.

SWEETWOODS is a 43-million-euro joint pilot project that was recently granted 21 million euros in funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme’s Bio-Based Industries financial instrument. Horizon 2020 is the biggest research and innovation programme in the world, supporting the development and introduction of new technologies. Industry consortium led by OÜ Graanul Biotech and bringing together MetGen Oy, Global Bioenergies, Tecnaro GmbH, Armacell via Ultima GmbH, Recticel N.V., 2B Srl, Vertech Group and Spinverse Oy. SWEETWODS aims at establishing a completely unique wood fractionation Flagship plant and demonstration of novel value-chains based on sustainable hardwood resource.

“Receiving the EU funding is a major victory for all parties involved in the project and a testament to our tireless efforts. Specialists representing the European Union and bioindustries ranked the project as the best of the round of financing, giving the project full marks,” describes Peep Pitk, the R&D Manager of the Estonian Graanul Invest Group.

MetGen has worked for years to create technology platforms and an ecosystem where a financially sound biorefinery concept could be materialized. MetGen‘s role in this has been two-fold: MetGen has consistently worked towards bringing the relevant technologies towards commercial readiness and in parallel played a key role in bringing together like-minded organizations under a shared vision. Teamwork in a vast network of operators has helped MetGen to identify the strongest teams and technologies to make up complete value-chains from raw materials to market. Furthermore, the close collaboration at every step along the way has allowed MetGen to identify the areas where enzymatic technologies can complement chemical and mechanical steps.

“The project allows us to produce with wood what is currently made with oil. In a matter of only a few years, consumers may have access to innovative products made out of wood-based plastics, foams, and composites.” comments MetGen’s Chief Technology Officer Matti Heikkilä.

MetGen brings to SWEETWOODS new biorefinery solutions that will be integrated into demonstration facility.

Tailored hydrolysis solution

Every biomass is unique. Therefore MetGen is ready and willing to make a tailored hydrolysis solution to address the pretreated biomass that not only provides high yields and purity for the sugar and lignin fractions but also enables value-addition to the further products.

Enzymatic Lignin Depolymerization and Modification

With first-of-a-kind Lignolytic enzymes, which not only tolerate but prefer highly alkalic conditions MetGen is able to enzymatically fractionate and activate lignin at pH 11 water-soluble conditions without organic solvents or heavy metal catalysts. Enabled by the mild conditions the valuable and specific low molecular weight fractions can be harvested using affordable and straightforward membrane technologies.

Lignocellulosic glucose isomerization

While Glucose Isomerase is one of the oldest industrial enzymes it has, until now, lacked the capabilities to function with lignocellulosic sugars. MetGen has developed a Glucose Isomerize which functions despite the inhibitors (xylose, mannose, galactose, lignin…) providing higher yields of fructose that the competing solutions achieve in purified food applications.

Glucose bioconversion to glucosone

Glucosone has been known as a rare sugar mostly used as an intermediate for antibiotics. However, when brought to affordable commodity prices it provides many useful routes to renewable chemicals: this intermediate sugar can be chemically converted to many interesting platform chemicals. Furthermore, glucose to glucosone conversion is a complete one-way reaction. If can be further hydrogenated to fructose allowing for streamlined processes without glucose-fructose separation and providing high-concentration fructose as an affordable and sustainable raw material for bioplastic applications. Glucosone is also microbiologically more inert than dilute glucose solutions, allowing many benefits in plant scale operations and engineering.