CEPF visited future lignocellulosic biorefinery in UK
On 23 October 2015 the CEPF Secretariat participated in the consortium meeting of the Commission FP7 funded research project BioSonic and visited the pilot plant that is now ready for demonstrations to the European forest sector.

The BioSonic research consortium is finalizing its three year innovative technology development project on valorization of biomass and the pilot plant, located in Melton Mowbray in England, is being tested prior to engaging in a comprehensive series of trials using lignocellulosic softwood feedstock to further optimize the project at scale. Once complete, alternative feedstocks, such as hardwood, straws, grasses, sugar cane bagasse and palm waste will also be trialed. After the feeding, mixing, ultrasonic fragmentation and separation, the end products are cellulose, sugars and lignin.

The biomass fractionation technology is patented and owned by Bio-Sep Limited of the UK. The BioSonic reaction is an ultrasonic enhanced organosolv process, which permits a significant reduction in operating temperature and pressure. Therefore required energy is also reduced compared to conventional biorefining operations. Furthermore, the technology is rather simple, adaptable and efficient and uses non-toxic chemicals. It can be scaled for standalone biorefining or used as an alternative to current front end processes. Moreover, the process is carbon friendly as carbon dioxide absorbed by the biomass during growth is not released.    

Currently, the consortium is scaling-up technology in the laboratory to 50 kilogram per hour to demonstrate the economic benefits of the process, and its potential for medium and large scale commercial operation. The next stage development plan includes the scaling up to a 50,000 per year and eight tons per an hour commercial demonstration plant in Europe in 2016/17.

End-product markets for cellulose, sugars and lignin are growing due to the transition towards European bioeconomy which aims at replacing fossil fuel based products with renewable ones. “Printing and paper products, platform chemicals, textiles, fibers, plastics, building materials, paints and lacquers are some examples of the cellulose markets. Sugars are being used in pharmaceuticals, food and drink supplements, cosmetics, domestic and personal products as well as veterinary and agricultural purposes. Furthermore, lignin is used in platform chemicals, as a binder, dispersant, emulsifier and as an energy source,” explains Kenneth Day, the leader of the communication work package in the BioSonic project. Anthony R. McGarel-Groves, the Financial Director of the Bio-Sep Limited of the UK, adds that after nearly 3 years the BioSonic project is at an interesting and critical juncture and the commercialisation will be of utmost importance for the successful continuation of the project”. 

For further information, please refer to: BioSonic project or contact the CEPF Secretariat.