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Global Bioenergies to head major European advanced biofuels R&D project

France-headed Global Bioenergies (GBE), an industrial biotechnology process developer, has announced the start of a major three-year European Union (EU) co-funded Horizon 2020 research and development (R&D) project that aims to demonstrate the conversion of softwood residues in renewable isobutene for subsequent conversion into biogasoline and biojet fuel.

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According to a statement, Global Bioenergies will head the eleven-member strong industrial project consortium from eight EU member states that will set the foundations of a first-of-a-kind biorefinery converting residual wood to high performances drop-in renewable gasoline and biojet fuel.

While we make progress on our first commercial project based on sugar beet-derived sugars, this new grant from the H2020 programme further supports our strategy to diversify the feedstocks usable in our isobutene process, and thus opens the door to the deployment of our technology in many new geographies, commented Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies.

Technically, the objective of REWOFUEL as the project is called is to demonstrate a new value chain for softwood residues by combining Global Bioenergies isobutene process with technologies developed by two of Europe’s leading technology developers – SEKAB, Sweden and Neste Engineering Solutions, Finland.

We are very excited in tailoring our next generation NExETHERS and NExOCTANE technologies to wood-derived bio-isobutene in order to demonstrate the production of sustainable 100 percent renewable fuel components. We regard this project as a great opportunity for showing how a genuinely synergistic European partnership can bring to the market drop-in high-performance fuel components derived from forestry residue materials, said Marita Niemelä, CTO at Neste Engineering Solutions.

REWOFUEL has a budget of EUR 19.7 million. Non-refundable grants totalling EUR 13.9 million will be provided by the EU, with the remainder being contributed by the participants. Global Bioenergies will be the coordinator of the project and receive funding amounting to EUR 5.7 million. The other project partners are Graanul Invest, Repsol, Peab Asfalt, SkyNRG, Ajinomoto Eurolysine, IPSB, TechnipFMC and Linz University.

We are thrilled by the opportunity to be part of industrial consortia which focus on softwood residue streams valorisation in novel value chains and end-use markets. We believe it to be important to kick-start the biomaterials market with high sustainability standards, as it will add strong value to the softwood residues on a long-term basis, said Peep Pitk, Head of R&D at Graanul Invest.

The 11 project partners have signed an agreement with the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) which manages the Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy societal challenge of the Horizon 2020 programme. INEA’s mission is to support the Commission, project promoters and stakeholders by providing expertise and high quality of program management.

The REWOFUEL project has great potential to become an alternative value chain to existing biofuels and to create new uses of European residual forestry resources. All parts of the process – the extraction of sugars from wood, the conversion to bio-isobutene, lignin-based chemicals and the production of gasoline and jefuel – are well developed and are all cutting edge, said Jonas Markusson, Innovation Manager at SEKAB.

Additionally, REWOFUEL will be supported by numerous industrialists including Air France and Safran.

We promote advanced biofuel research projects that use raw-materials coming from non-food sources which have a high technological content and reduce carbon intensity. At Repsol, we are resolutely committed to sustainability. It is essential to generate value today and in the future to society and, therefore, to our Company, said Adriana Orejas, Director of Technology Downstream at Repsol.

The objective of REWOFUEL is to demonstrate the new value chain at cubic meter scale by combining the technologies and know-how of participants as follows:

  • Residual softwood supply and processing by Graanul Invest AS (Estonia)
  • Softwood conversion to hydrolysates by SEKAB, using its CelluAPP technology (Sweden),
  • Hydrolysates fermentation to bio-isobutene by Global Bioenergies (France and Germany),
  • Bio-isobutene conversion to fuel components by Neste Engineering Solutions (Finland),
  • Preliminary engineering of a wood-to-isobutene plant and overall integration with a fuel conversion unit by TechnipFMC and IPSB (France),
  • Evaluation of Gasoline applications by Repsol (Spain),
  • Evaluation of Jetfuel application by SkyNRG (Netherlands),
  • Valorisation of the lignin side stream by Peab Asfalt (Sweden),
  • Valorisation of proteins from the dried killed residual biomass by Ajinomoto Eurolysine (France),
  • Assessment of the sustainability and environmental benefits by the Energy Institute at the University of Linz (Austria).

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