Consortium to develop 'integrated' biorefineries

New consortium Valor-Plus, made up of the UK Health and Environment Research Institute (HERI), has been established to develop second generation integrated biorefineries.

The aim is to create biomass with zero waste, improved process efficiency, increased commercial competitiveness and profitability, and a more diverse and sustainable biomass resource.

Valor-Plus will develop quality control procedures for the reliable and consistent recovery of minimally degraded hemicellulose fibres and lignin macromolecules. The project will undertake a complete lifecycle assessment, evaluate and demonstrate the potential for scale-up and integration of the project results within existing and future biorefineries, while defining biorefinery technology and product stream roadmaps to promote awareness and engagement of stakeholders.

The Valor-Plus consortium will support the realisation of sustainable and economically viable closed-loop integrated biorefineries through the development of knowledge, technologies and products that enable valorisation of key biorefinery by-products.

Mick Parmar, project manager at UK HERI, says: 'Biorefining is not a new concept and has been used for many years for the production of product streams such as biodiesel, bioethanol and polymers. However, the focus on a single stream and the fraction of the biomass leads to a number of limitations. The first generation of biorefineries were a result of growing demand for energy and transport fuels, driven by government regulation and financial support. This artificial market is not sustainable in the long term and a more commercially viable solution must be found.

'The role of the Valor-Plus consortium is to develop an 'integrated' biorefinery to allow multiple bulk and high-value product streams. This will bring a number of benefits, namely the full use of the biomass to generate the highest return value.'

The project comprises five key areas: pretreatment and fractionation, hemicellulose valorisation, lignin valorisation, glycerol valorisation and the demonstration of the technological and economic potential for integration and scale-up within existing and future biorefinery value chains.

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