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Valorisation of lignin and other side-streams to increase efficiency of biorefineries and increase sustainability of the whole value chain
Deadline: Sep 8, 2016  

 Waste Management
 Sustainable Development
 Biological Sciences
 Horizon Europe

Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

High costs of feedstock and energy in the EU require biorefineries to apply highly efficient processes to remain competitive. These include processes to handle and convert by- and co-products from different industrial and commercial activities. And they also include integrating own biorefining operations and maximising the use of intermediate- and side-streams, through recycling or next steps processing.

The predominant component of side-streams from lignocellulosic biomass processing is lignin. Other co-products may vary in content according to the plant: crystalline cellulose, complex polymers and dead cells have also high content in streams from the fermentation stage in biorefineries; while soaps, terpenes and sulphur compounds are found in pulp mills’ black liquor (besides lignin). All these components represent, in various degrees, also potential sources of new feedstock for further valorisation.

At lab and small pilot scale, there are many examples of valorisation of lignin-rich streams.

The challenge is to demonstrate at a larger scale the feasibility and sustainability of valorisation of lignin-rich streams at the core of a full value chain in order to set the basis for a future market deployment of the obtained products.


Demonstrate the techno-economic viability of the efficient valorisation of lignin-rich side-streams from biorefineries or from black liquor streams from the pulp and paper industries. Besides lignin, other streams – such as crystalline cellulose, complex polymers and dead cells from the different stages of biorefineries and soaps, terpenes and sulphur compounds from pulp and paper mills – could be addressed.

In particular, applying the 'cascading use principle[1]' (valorisation of the side-streams) where possible, aiming at realising an integrated, zero-waste biorefinery operation by maximising conversion of different streams available and of the corresponding different materials and compounds. This includes the recovery and recycling of process chemicals, obviating or minimising the need for new input thereof.

Proposals should encompass the whole value chain, proving innovative and efficient technologies and methods to improve sustainability. Proposals should also demonstrate replicability of the developed processes to different side-streams.

Proposals should also include regulatory aspects and the market pull of the targeted chemicals and material, in order to match legislation requirements and those by costumers and end-users, with technical, environmental and economic aspects linked to the bio-based value chain. These aspects include safety, quality and purity of the products by actively building upon existing knowledge and standardisation activities.

Proposals should achieve technology demonstrated in an industrial environment, or a system prototype demonstration in operational environment. Proposals need to address the whole value chain, from feedstock sourcing to market applications (Technology Readiness Levels 6-7).

Proposals should also include a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in order to evaluate the environmental and socio-economic performance of the whole value chain.

It is considered that proposals with a total eligible budget of up to EUR 15 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals with another budget.

Expected Impact:
  • Safety, quality and purity of the (new) products are in line with EU legislation and proven to meet end-market requirements in order to facilitate future market access and commercialisation.
  • Reduction of industrial side-streams routed to disposal as waste.
  • Demonstrated operational- and energy-costs savings as compared to existing processes and technologies.
  • Successful introduction of ‘lignin – to – bio-product’ concepts at semi-commercial scale.
  • Projects under this topic should result in 1 new building block based on biomass of European origin validated at demonstration scale (KPI 4) and/or at least 1 new bio-based material (KPI 5).
  • Contribution to other BBI JU Key Performance Indicators (KPI), specifically:
    • Creation of at least 1 new bio-based value chain (KPI 2) and at least 1 new cooperation project through cross-industry clusters (KPI 3).
    • Lead to new demonstrated consumer products based on bio-based chemicals and materials (KPI 6), or significantly improving the production process of existing ones.

[1]In the context of this topic the ‘cascading use principle’ means the valorisation of as many as possible fractions from the primary stream, in parallel or subsequent steps.

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