EU Call for Proposals: Develop technologies and systems to produce bio-based aromatics that outperform fossil-based counterparts
Aromatic building blocks make up a significant share of today’s building blocks for a wide array of day-to-day products and applications, including nylons, polystyrene, resins and polycarbonates.
Current production routes from fossil-based feedstock are energy-intensive and have a significant environmental footprint.
Moreover, the gradual introduction of shale gas and other light feedstocks in oil refining and cracking operations is resulting in significant production cuts to building blocks heavier than ethylene.
Until now, production costs have been the prime obstacle to bio-based aromatics penetrating the market. The maturity of the petrochemical industry makes purely cost-based competition unrealistic for most bio-based aromatics, especially benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. However, better performance at an acceptable premium price would increase the marketability of bio-based aromatics for mass consumption.
Composition complexity and other characteristics of various biomass feedstock hinder the exploitation of their enormous potential to produce aromatic compounds that could outperform petrochemical alternatives.
The specific challenge of this topic is to increase the process yields of aromatics from sustainable biomass sources able to outperform fossil-based counterparts.
Develop innovative technologies and systems to produce bio-based aromatics with new functionalities, from sustainable sources at reasonable cost.
The new functionality could, for example, be displayed by bio-based aromatics that are isomers of petrochemical aromatics, and/or contain functional groups that are absent in petrochemical aromatics.
Proposals should prove that the properties of at least two products/applications are improved by using bio-based aromatics with a ‘new functionality’ compared to existing alternatives based on fossil-derived counterparts.
This topic includes all types of biomass excluding food and feed crops (but including agricultural residues), and allows biotechnological and chemical conversion technologies.
Proposals should deliver the required amounts of intermediate streams for efficient downstream steps to separate and purify the targeted bio-aromatics.
Proposals should specify potential application areas of the selected new bio-based aromatics.
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 industry-wide.
Industry’s participation should also guarantee that the applications are assessed as having properties relevant for industry (using well-known methods and standards).
Proposals should specifically demonstrate the benefits versus the state-of-the-art and existing technologies. This could be done by providing evidence of new processing solutions and new products obtained.
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 approaches (see also introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018). Any potential hazards associated with the developed processes and products should be analysed to ensure that the products comply fully with REACH legislation and other toxicity requirements, safety requirements and any relevant EU legislation.
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)3 at the end of the project should be at least 3 for the bio-based value chain in question. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL, which may be as low as 1 or 2.
Proposals should seek complementarity with the existing projects funded under Horizon 2020 to avoid overlap, promote synergies and advance beyond the state-of-the-art.
The scope aims at assisting industry to further explore promising technologies to broaden and strengthen the bio-based industries in Europe.
Illustration Photo: Light-weight bio-based structures (credits: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))