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Clariant's sunliquid ethanol plant in Romania on track for 2021 completion

In a progress report, Switzerland-headed specialty chemical major Clariant AG says that it is "making good progress" with the construction of its "sunliquid" cellulosic ethanol production plant in Podari, in the southwestern part of Romania. The installation of the majority of large key equipment has been achieved.
"This puts us on track to complete the construction by the end of 2021, said Christian Librera, VP and Head of Business Line Biofuels and Derivatives at Clariant.

Aerial view of the Clariant sunliquid® construction site in Podari, Romania in November 2020 (photo courtesy Clariant).

First announced in November 2017, Clariant then held a groundbreaking ceremony in Podari in September 2018, marking the official construction start of its own commercial-scale “sunliquid” cellulosic ethanol production facility in Romania.

The plant is being built on a 10- hectare (ha) brownfield site in Podari near Craiova in southwestern Romania, from where it has access to a secure regional supply of feedstock and can benefit from the region’s existing logistic and industrial infrastructure.

While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to present a challenging situation, the company reports that its team was able to ensure that work on the construction site continues while fully complying with all pandemic precaution regulations as established by the Romanian authorities.

It is truly impressive to see how our project team as well as all local partners have been able to keep this important construction project running while ensuring everyone’s safety and health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Once completed, this sunliquid cellulosic ethanol production plant will be a cornerstone of our continuing transformation into a leading specialty chemicals company and another proof point of our commitment to innovation and sustainability, said Hans Bohnen, Clariant’s Chief Operating Officer.

Flagship project

The sunliquid plant is receiving over EUR 40 million in funding from the European Union (EU)  – under the 7th Framework Program (FP7) for research, technological development, and demonstration under Grant Agreement no. 322386 (SUNLIQUID), and from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBJ-JU) under the Horizon 2020 (H2020) research and innovation program under Grant Agreement no. 709606 (LIGNOFLAG).

Once operational, the plant will process approximately 250 000 tonnes of cereal straw to produce 50 000 tonnes of sunliquid cellulosic ethanol on an annual basis. This is an advanced, truly sustainable, and carbon-neutral biofuel that can readily be blended into conventional gasoline fuel and be used in today’s vehicle fleet and infrastructure.

Over the past months, several milestones have been reached on the construction site while also achieving the installation of the majority of large key equipment. This puts us on track to complete the construction by the end of 2021, after which start-up and production will commence. We are proud to see already the substantial benefits that our investment is bringing to the Podari region and look forward to seeing its impact increase further once the plant is fully staffed and operating at full capacity, said Christian Librera, VP and Head of Business Line Biofuels and Derivatives at Clariant.

Recruitment and training underway

Clariant is also making headway with the recruitment and training of staff members for its sunliquid project in Romania. The company’s local employee population is expanding rapidly, with a total of 26 people so far. These team members benefit from a comprehensive training program in Germany and Romania.

They started their training at Clariant’s pre-commercial sunliquid plant in Straubing, Germany, followed by training sessions in collaboration with the University of Craiova, a renowned educational center in the Southwest of Romania.

In the long-term, up to 100 staff members will be directly employed in the plant, while about 300 jobs will be created in ancillary businesses, such as the collection, storage, and transportation of the feedstock.

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