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Making profitable and sustainable biorefining a reality

Chempolis’ formico® 3G biorefining technologies deliver true sustainability for the biomass, biofuel, sugar, paper, and chemical industries – in the shape of high-quality products, excellent profitability, low CO2 emissions, and efficient natural resource usage.

As the world’s population continues to grow, so does the need to make more efficient use of global resources. Nonwood and non-food residues – such as straw, bagasse, corn stover, and reeds – represent a huge, untapped, and highly sustainable resource for producing ethanol for fuel, fibre for papermaking, and biochemicals for a variety of applications.

By processing non-wood and non-food raw materials such as these in advanced biorefineries, we can reduce the pressure on the world’s forest resources, cut CO2 emissions, and help secure sufficient food for everyone. This approach can also reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and provide a valuable boost for the local economy in many rural areas, setting a true bioeconomy in motion.

Graph: Chempolis’ 3G biorefining technology platform enables multiple value-added products to be produced selectively, utilising all the components present in renewable biomass content.

Multiple value-added products

Chempolis’ patented third-generation (3G) formico® biorefining technologies are capable of producing fuel, fibre, or chemicals – and unlike older, first- and second-generation technologies, they can produce multiple value-added products from the same renewable inputs.

formicobio™ is designed for the coproduction of non-food cellulosic bioethanol, biochemicals, and biocoal; while formicofib™ is designed to co-produce non-wood papermaking fibre (pulp), biochemicals, and biocoal.

Both technologies are based on selective fractionation using a recyclable biosolvent and make use of all the components in the biomass stream – and are effluent-free, self-sufficient in terms of energy, and produce no CO2 or sulphuric emissions.

"Biorefining is the sustainable way to go."

Bioethanol

formicobio™ technology fractionates all the main components present in lignocellulose into cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin. The selectivity of the process means that optimised processes can be used for each fraction to achieve high conversion levels and pure products. Compared to second-generation technologies, this translates into revenues that can be up to 40% higher.

The Indian Minister of New and Renewable Energy, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, led a high-level delegation to the Chempolis Biorefining Park. Photo: Sampo Anttila, © Chempolis
The pure cellulose produced can be enzymatically hydrolysed into pure glucose very easily, using less enzymes, and then fermented into ethanol rapidly. Hemicellulose sugars can be processed into ethanol, furfural, and acetic acid, for example, while the pure lignin produced can be used to make a biorefinery self-sufficient in energy or refined into end-product for onward sale.

Refining cellulosic biomass offers a very attractive alternative for the chemical industry, as lignin can be further processed into the very same chemicals refined from crude oil today. Glucose also offers excellent potential for processing into chemical products and for use in various applications.

Fibre for papermaking

Chempolis’ formicofib™ technology is also based on co-production, this time for producing papermaking fibre for paper, board, packaging, and hygiene products, dissolving pulp and fibres for textiles, and biochemicals.

The advanced chemistry used results in selective delignification, which helps overcome the main problems faced in conventional nonwood pulping. The biosolvent and process water used are fully recovered, and fewer process operations are needed compared to conventional non-wood pulping processes. The ability to use the energy and biochemicals generated in the process in the biorefinery itself also results in lower operating costs.

An advanced platform

Chempolis’ in-house biorefinery in Finland gives customers a first-hand look at what the company’s technologies can offer. Commissioned in 2009, the facility is used to selectively fractionate customersourced biomasses on an industrial scale, test product properties, and generate detailed data for dimensioning the equipment and systems needed for large industrial biorefineries.

Recognising the lead that Chempolis has achieved in the field, the company was ranked as one of the top three cleantech companies in the Renewable Energy, Biofuels category of the Global Cleantech Cluster Association’s 2011 Later Stage Awards.

Chempolis’ in-house biorefinery gives customers a first-hand look at what the company’s technologies can offer. Photo: Sampo Anttila, © Chempolis

Chempolis is expanding strongly in Asia, in both non-wood and non-food biorefining; and a wholly owned technology delivery subsidiary – Chempolis Biorefining Technology (Shanghai) Co., Ltd – has been operational in China since 2009.

Chempolis already has its eye on countries such as Thailand and India, which are particularly promising because of the large amounts of non-food biomass ideal for biorefining purposes available there. Chempolis is currently negotiating to set up a number of biorefineries in India, as well as a local subsidiary.

> Pasi Rousu
(Published in HighTech Finland 2013)