Clariant to build flagship cellulosic ethanol plant in Romania: 8-figure sales potential envisioned

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In Germany, Clariant’s board has approved investment in a new full-scale commercial plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues using its sunliquid technology. The new plant, with an annual production capacity of 50.000 tons, will be built in the southwestern part of Romania. The facility will be a flagship site, confirming competitiveness and sustainability of the sunliquid technology at commercial scale thus supporting Clariant’s sunliquid licensing business strategy.

Next steps are detailed engineering studies before the ground breaking and start of construction, which is planned for 2018. The plant is anticipated to deliver its first batch of product in 2020. Peak sales from the sunliquid cellulosic ethanol plant are expected to be in the mid double-digit million range.

The project receives funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement no. 322386 and from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 709606.

At full capacity, the new plant will process approximately 250.000 tons of wheat straw and other cereal straw annually, which will be sourced from local farmers. Co-products from the process will be used for the generation of renewable energy with the goal of making the plant independent from fossil energy sources. Therefore, the resulting cellulosic ethanol is an almost carbon neutral advanced biofuel.

The technology’s edge

The sunliquid technology offers a completely integrated process design built on established process technology. Innovative technology features like the integrated production of feedstock and process specific enzymes and simultaneous C5 and C6 sugars fermentation ensure best in class commercial performance.

The emissions story is strong,. As we reported in May 2016, ethanol-powered trucks made by Scania and used at the Clariant Suzano plant in Brazil has reduced CO2 emissions by approximately 90%. The ethanol fuel used is manufactured with the Master Batch ED 95 additive produced by Clariant in Brazil. The ethanol fuel used by the Scania trucks contains the Master Batch ED 95 additive produced by Clariant Brazil.

As we noted in our pictorial on the Clariant demonstration plant in Germany: “Here’s the basic differentiation of the sunliquid system — it’s the onsite production of the microorganisms.”

Clariant sets up Business Line Biofuels

As a further step in the commercialization of sunliquid, Clariant decided to set-up a new Business Line Biofuels, as part of the Business Area Catalysis, which is responsible for further developing the biofuels business across the board and report its performance.

The sunliquid backstory

In Slovakia, Enviral has acquired a license to use Clariant’s sunliquid technology as part of its goal to realize a full scale commercial cellulosic ethanol plant for the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues.

The new plant will be owned and operated by Enviral and is planned to be integrated into the existing facilities at Enviral’s Leopoldov site in Slovakia with an annual production capacity of 50,000 tons (15 million gallons per year). It will use Clariant’s sunliquid technology as well as starter cultures from its proprietary enzyme and yeast platforms to process Enviral feedstock into cellulosic ethanol.

Clariant and Enviral conducted extensive tests of Enviral’s feedstock with Clariant’s technology to ensure effective and efficient compatibility. These tests, conducted at Clariant’s pre-commercial sunliquid demonstration plant in Straubing (Germany), provided excellent results and formed the basis for the project decision. Next steps are detailed engineering studies before the official ground breaking which is expected at the end of 2017.

Also, we reported last September that Global Bioenergies and Clariant are proud to announce the first isobutene production from a wheat straw hydrolysate, in the industrial pilot of Pomacle Bazancourt. Clariant produced the wheat straw hydrolysate, rich in non food/non feed second generation sugar, in its Straubing facility in Germany. This hydrolysate was converted into renewable isobutene in Global Bioenergies’ industrial pilot operated by ARD in its Pomacle-Bazancourt facility.

In January 2016, the technology won the 2015 German Innovation Prize for Climate and Environment in the process innovations category for its sunliquid cellulosic ethanol technology, prevailing against 14 competitors.

Multi-Slide Guides to Clariant’s sunliquid technology

An integrated approach to cellulosic fuels: The Digest’s 2015 8-Slide Guide to Clariant’s sunliquid process

Cellulosic Ethanol, are all processes equal?: The Digest’s 2016 Multi-Slide Guide to Clariant

Hi-performance tech package: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Clariant’s sunliquid process

Reaction from the stakeholders

“After five years of operating our pre-commercial sunliquid plant in Straubing, Germany, and thorough process demonstration we are now ready to scale-up to the next level”, explains Markus Rarbach, Head of Start-up Business Biofuels & Derivatives at Clariant. “It is the next big step into an attractive market and a significant advancement in the successful commercialization of this highly innovative and sustainable technology”. The investment also brings substantial economic benefits to the region. By locally sourcing feedstock, greenhouse gas savings can be maximized and additional business opportunities arise in the region along the value chain.”

“Clariant is continually investing in the development of sustainable products and innovative solutions such as sunliquid®. This pioneering process demonstrates the production of efficient and sustainable advanced biofuels and has great potential as a technology platform for a variety of bio-based materials. It is a further illustration 0f Clariant’s successful innovation strategy, as this technology provides additional growth potential to an already strong portfolio”, says Christian Kohlpaintner, Member of the Executive Committee at Clariant.