Clariant is making good progress in building a new commercial-scale plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues based on its sunliquid technology.
Paolo Corvo, Clariant’s head of sales and marketing, business line biofuels and derivatives, gave an update on the project during a webinar on how Europe can develop a market for advanced renewable fuels. The plant with an annual capacity of 50,000 tons of cellulosic ethanol will be located in Podari near Craiova in the south western part of Romania.
Cellulosic ethanol is an advanced, truly sustainable and nearly carbon-neutral biofuel that can readily be used in our existing car and energy infrastructure. It is produced from agricultural residues such as wheat straw, which are sourced from local farmers. The first-of-its-kind facility will generate new green jobs, business opportunities and economic growth in a rural area. By building the new plant, a new bio-based value chain built on agricultural residues will be established in the region, providing a tangible example for a successful circular economy approach. At the same time, this plant lays the foundation for a wide-scale implementation of advanced biofuels production in Europe and for a more sustainable energy supply in the European transport sector.
Clariant is investing more than EUR 100 million in its first sunliquid plant. The project received more than EUR 40 million funding from the European Union.
Cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues
A shortage of fossil resources, energy security, climate change, environmental protection – these are the issues concerning us today in the energy sector. Alternative sources of energy must be found to reduce our dependence on oil and nowhere is this more evident than in the transport sector. In the European Union, the US and other major economic areas, politicians have laid down basic frameworks to promote the use of climate-friendly biofuels.
For some time now, many companies have shown a growing interest in the production of ethanol from renewable lignocellulosic resources, such as agricultural residues. These resources are created in sufficient quantities worldwide as a by-product of current agricultural practices, as in the case of straw from cereal production.
The sunliquid® process developed by Clariant meets all the requirements of a technically and economically efficient, innovative process for converting agricultural residues into climate-friendly biofuel. Using process-integrated enzyme production, optimized enzymes, simultaneous conversion of cellulose and hemicellulose into ethanol and an energy-efficient process design, it has been possible to overcome technological challenges and sufficiently reduce production costs in order to arrive at a commercially viable basis.
Since 2009, Clariant has been successfully operating a first pilot plant at its research facility in Munich. This pilot plant is capable of producing up to two tons of ethanol per year. Since July 2012, Clariant has been operating a precommercial plant in Straubing, which produces up to 1,000 metric tons of cellulosic ethanol every year. In the fall of 2018 Clariant also broke ground for its first-of-its-kind commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production plant in Podari, Romania.
Clariant licenses its sunliquid® technology platform globally. So far, three license agreements have been executed with renowned industry players in Slovakia, Poland and China.