Thank heaven for these 11 – EU biofuels effort kicks off in Sweden

July 1, 2018 |

Swedish clean-tech company SEKAB E-Technology hosted the kick-off last week for the EU-funded project REWOFUEL in the Swedish town of Örnsköldsvik. The gathering included representatives from all 11 European companies and universities taking part in the project. REWOFUEL started on 1 June this year and will run for three years.

The three-year project will demonstrate and evaluate the whole value-chain, to show how to best use wood residues from the forest industry to produce biofuels. The long-term aim is to start many new biorefineries across Europe, using wood residues from European forest and sawmill industries, as well as forestry industry, as raw material.

The total project budget is 19,7 million euros or about $23 million. The EU contribution from the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, is 13,9 million euros (about $16 million), of which SEKAB has received 30 percent, around 4 million euro (about $4.6 million). The remaining part is covered by the project participants.

The Super 11

So who are these 11 leaders taking part in REWOFUEL? They include companies and universities from eight EU countries and include SEKAB E-Technology, Peab Asphalt, Sky NRG, Global Bioenergies, Neste Engineering Solutions, Repsol, Ajinomoto, Eurolysine, IPSB, TechnipFMC and Linz University.

It is the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, that selected these 11 European companies and universities to the REWOFUEL international collaborative project.

Getting to heaven with these 11

REWOFUEL has some serious go-getting goals – “to demonstrate the performances, reliability, environmental and socio-economic sustainability of the entire value chain, for the transformation of residual soft-wood into hydrolysate (RWH), conversion of RWH into bio-Isobutene (bio-IBN) by fermentation and further conversion to biofuels.”

That’s no easy task.

But with these 11 companies and universities, it can be done. They can showcase the value chain, from residual wood to 3 high performance drop-in biofuels derived from bio-IBN. These biofuels are full-bio-ETBE, bio-isooctane and bio-isododecane rich biofuels. “This large market is today supplied entirely by products derived from fossil-based IBN,” according to their press release. “Products derived from bio-based IBN, using the same process as fossil-based IBN, would provide a true renewable alternative.”

REWOFUEL includes the development & up-scaling of this process and the valorization of coproducts: lignin, microbial biomass, biogas and fertilizers. To this end, four ambitious objectives were defined:

-Demonstrate the production of residual wood hydrolysate (RWH) and establish a quality standard to feed the IBN fermentation unit,

-Demonstrate the production of bio-IBN-based biofuels from RWH at pre-commercial scale,

-Demonstrate the valorization of lignin and other coproducts resulting from the RWH process,

-Determine and validate the targeted technical, safety, economic as well as environmental/social sustainability performances to be achieved for a commercial plant.

This project aligns with the core innovation strategies of 2 SMEs which are: deconstructing of wood (SEKAB, SWE) and conversion of sugars/hydrolysates into bio-IBN (GBE, FR). These 2 SMEs are already operating a demo plant that they intend to further upgrade within the project.

What say you?

So what do the leaders on the project have to say about their hopes, dreams and goals over the next three years with REWOFUEL? They have some serious ambitions with the project including a breaking free from fossil oil dependence.

Jonas Markusson, Innovation Manager at SEKAB E-Technology said, “SEKAB’s experience in using wood residues from the forestry industry will be very valuable. Through this collaborative project, we will be able to transition Europe even faster to renewables.”

SEKAB, a Swedish chemical and clean-tech company, converts ethanol into biofuels and chemicals and develops technology for new sustainable products made from lignocellulose raw materials. SEKAB’s role is to, with its patented technology CelluAPP, refine biomass into sugar and lignin, that in the next step can be converted to biofuels and other renewable products.

“Society is facing a huge challenge in replacing old energy sources with new ones,” according to SEKAB’s press release. “SEKAB seeks to play its part in the transition to a future with a reduced demand for fossil fuels and raw materials. We will achieve this through the ethanol we produce and import, turning it into biofuels in various forms and green chemicals.”

“By combining technologies and know-how from the leading biofuels actors across Europe, the project REWOFUEL will be able to demonstrate the increasingly important role of using forest materials in the European renewable energy transition. We look forward to contributing directly to the European climate and energy targets,” said Jean-Baptiste Barbaroux, Chief Corporate Officer at Global Bioenergies.

“We are proud to deliver the technology needed in the first step of the value-chain to convert biomass, that will then be refined into biofuels. To phase out the oil in transport fuels, we see huge potential in using today’s unused residue products from the forest industry,” said Monica Normark, Project Manager for REWOFUEL.

Bottom Line

REWOFUEL has a solid 11 key players with the needed technology and knowledge, they have solid funding from the EU and Horizon 2020 program, they have ambitious goals with plans on how to get there and most importantly, they have begun. As the Carpenter’s “We’ve Only Just Begun” song plays in the background, we realize it’s fitting for REWOFUEL – “Before the risin’ sun, we fly.  So many roads to choose. We’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run, (And yes, we’ve just begun). Sharing horizons that are new to us, Watching the signs along the way…Workin’ together day to day.”

They may be walking right now, but we see them running quickly and reaching their goals soon as they work together on this collaborative project.

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