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Introduce new technologies to make pulping operations more resource-efficient - BBI.2018.SO2.R3
Deadline: 06 Sep 2018   CALL EXPIRED

EU logo mono EC - Horizon 2020

 Raw Materials
 Energy Efficiency
 Natural Resources
 Agricultural Biotechnology

Specific Challenge:

The objective of wood pulping is to separate cellulose fibres from the other wood components (lignin, hemicelluloses, extractives, etc.). Those components end up as side streams, making up a considerable share of the pulp mill’s output. For example, in the case of the dominant chemical pulping process (the kraft process, which accounts for roughly 90 % of the world’s chemically produced pulp), around half of the initial wood substances degrades and dissolves into the cooking liquor or black liquor. Black liquor is concentrated and burnt to obtain energy. However, there are opportunities to obtain more value for the substances diverted to black liquor.

Moreover, the pulp and paper sector is focusing on reducing its environmental impact by consuming less energy, curbing its use of polluting chemical products and bringing down CO2 emissions from its operations. Key to achieving this target is the development of new pulping processes that can be effective at lower temperatures, use fewer chemical agents and make better overall use of the biomass feedstock.

Several disruptive technologies have surfaced in recent years. A study by the Confederation of the European Paper Industries (CEPI) in November 20131 singled out eight breakthrough concepts projected to change the face of pulp- and papermaking processes by 20502.

The specific challenge of this topic is to bring breakthrough concepts in lignocellulosic pulping from lab scale to pilot scale and paving the way for further upscaling and industry uptake.


2PROVIDES, a BBI RIA project from the 2014 Call, addresses one of these technologies, concluding at TRL 3-4 in 2018. Overlaps have to be avoided.


Introduce breakthrough pulping technologies in a relevant environment at pilot scale, deriving maximum benefit from the feedstock with a significant increase in sustainability, cost- and resource-effectiveness.

This topic targets breakthrough innovation involving new technologies or equipment.

Proposals could also focus on better utilisation of the side streams through valorisation steps that outperform state-of-the-art alternatives in an integrated biorefinery approach.

The proposed solutions may introduce:

  • fundamental innovation in the pulping process itself, changing the way in which the components of wood are separated from each other; or
  • technological steps before or during an established pulping process to obtain separate streams of side-products; or
  • technological steps downstream of an established pulping process to recover the most promising components from the pulping effluents.

Proposals should focus on one of the three options above, but could address more of them. The chosen option should deliver separate streams that can be converted into compounds with a higher value than the current one, for further valorisation into market applications. These steps should therefore target required yields, quality and purity for further conversion steps.

To validate the concept, proposals should include at least a first conversion step to convert the promising components into usable compounds for further valorisation.

The new technological concepts should deliver a new product or create higher value through performance and sustainability criteria. Proposals should justify the selection of the technologies.

While a maximum conversion rate should be the aim, it is not mandatory to cover 100 % of the original wood components. Proposals opting to focus on a fraction of them should justify the exclusion of the others on grounds of cost, sustainability or technology readiness.

Proposals should include an assessment of the market potential of the promising components through the necessary subsequent processing steps.

The industry should actively participate to demonstrate the potential for integrating the developed concepts into current industrial landscapes or existing plants so that the concepts can be deployed more quickly and scaled up to apply industrial-wide.

Proposals should specifically demonstrate the benefits versus the state-of-the-art and existing technologies.

Proposals should commit to assessing the environmental impacts of the developed processes or products using LCA methodologies based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches1 (see introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018)

Proposals should also include an economic viability performance check (value chain and market analysis) of the developed products and processes, along with an analysis of social impacts where applicable.

If relevant, proposals should also allow for pre- and co-normative research necessary for developing the needed product quality standards.

The technology readiness level (TRL)2 at the end of the project should be 4-5. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL.

Indicative funding:

It is considered that proposals requesting a contribution of between EUR 2 million and EUR 5 million would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

1The LCA may focus on a set of critical issues early on to steer the development process in the right direction. In this case, it is essential that this selection is carefully explained in the proposal in order to allow for expert assessment. See also in the introduction.

2Technology readiness levels as defined in annex G of the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme:

Expected Impact:

Expected impacts:

  • contribute to KPI 1: create at least one new cross-sector interconnection in bio-based economy;
  • contribute to KPI 2: set the basis for at least one new bio-based value chain;
  • contribute to KPI 8: validate at least one new and improved processing technology reflecting the ‘TRL gain’ since the start of the project;
  • reduce the pulping energy intensity by 40 %.

Type of action: Research and innovation action.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Cross-cutting Key-Enabling Technologies (KETs)

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