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Circa Group FC5 commercial demonstration online

A joint venture between Circa and Norske Skog Australasia, a business unit of Norway-headed forest industry major Norske Skogindustrier ASA, the FC5 plant is located at Norske Skog Boyen newsprint mill in Tasmania, Australia. Now successfully commissioned and operated end-to-end, FC5 is starting to produce a steady stream of 99 percent pure "Cyrene", a non-toxic solvent made from certified and renewable cellulose waste.

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The FC5 commercial demonstration plant.
The FC5 commercial demonstration plant at Norske Skog Boyen mill in Tasmania, Australia (photo courtesy Circa Group).

Founded in 2006, Circa Group converts waste biomass into advanced bio-based chemicals with its proprietary Furacell process at its prototype plant in Tasmania – a joint venture with Norske Skog. Cyrene is an alternative to traditional dipolar aprotic solvents, which are used in large volumes – over one million tonnes per year – and are under intense regulatory pressure due to their toxicity. Last month, the first consignments of 99 percent Cyrene were shipped to clients in the United States (US).

In the European Union (EU), Circa is a partner in the Bio-Based Industry Joint-Undertaking (BBI JU) project ReSolve, funded under the Horizon 2020 (H2020) research and innovation programme, which specifically aims to replace N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) – a fossil-derived solvent which has been categorised as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) under European REACH regulation.

Safer solvents are urgently required and Cyrene is a bio-based solution with a unique property set, including viscosity, surface tension, and polarities. The product is sold worldwide through Circa’s distributors Merck/Sigma Aldrich and Will & Co.

Scaling up new technologies is always a challenge. After years of hard work, we’re delighted that FC5 is now online as this allows us to provide Cyrene reliably and in larger quantities for product testing worldwide, particularly in Europe. Circa is now focused on supporting the development of FC6 – a larger, commercial-scale plant, said Tony Duncan, CEO and co-founder of Circa Group.


About ReSolve

REnewable SOLVEnts (ReSolve) is a EUR 4.3 million EU project focused on replacing traditional, fossil-based solvents, with safer bio-based ones, was officially launched in June 2017. Led by the University of York, the project consortium is comprised of 11 partners from 5 countries and is due to finish in 2020. Consortium partners include Stichting Wageningen Research (The Netherlands), nova-Institut für politische und ökologische Innovation GmbH (Germany), Nitto Belgium (Belgium), Avantium Chemicals BV (The Netherlands), Circa Sustainable Chemicals  Ltd (United Kingdom), BioDetection Systems BV (The Netherlands), Process Design Center BV (The Netherlands), Norske Skogindustrier ASA (Norway), Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek TNO (The Netherlands) and Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant vzw (Belgium). ReSolve sets out to replace two hazardous solvents – toluene and NMP (N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone) – with safer alternatives derived from non-food carbohydrates. These new solvents will omit parts of the molecular structure that cause toxicity – aromatic rings (toluene) and amide groups (NMP). The new, safer solvents will have a wide range of applications; project ReSolve with bring them to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5. It will also demonstrate their sustainability, low health impact, and high application performance.

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