Biomass as raw material

All biomass, whether wood, grass, plants or straw, has three main components: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Each component has a significant market potential to replace fossil-based materials and products.

Cellulose brings strength to biomass. It can be identified, for example, by trying to pull the grass lengthwise, which requires quite a bit of force. Hemicellulose brings flexibility to biomass: in the wind, trees sway but need a strong storm to break. Lignin is the adhesive that holds the components together.

All these components, or fractions, have a role in the roadmap towards carbon neutrality and sustainable biomaterials. Currently, cellulose is the most utilized fraction for higher value applications, while hemicellulose and lignin are mainly burned for energy in biorefineries.

Bio2X uses fractionation technology, developed by Fortum's interest company Chempolis, that can extract not only cellulose but also hemicellulose and lignin for high-value products.

Straw can be used in numerous applications

Straw, such as wheat or rice straw, is abundantly available across the globe. After harvesting, it is usually discarded or even burned. However, as straw contains all three biomass fractions, it can be refined for high-value use.

Bio2X uses wheat straw as raw material while the grain is used for food, which allows for more efficient production on the same land area. The resulting fractions from the fractionation process have numerous applications globally, such as textiles, biocomposites, packaging materials, cosmetics and resins.

Wheat use

Currently there are virtually no advanced straw-based materials on the market. Straw fibres were used widely in the European paper industry until the 1950s, however, due to technical and financial issues arising from the refining processes, the production has almost completely disappeared.

Today, consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability issues and industries are under pressure to improve their sustainability performance. There is a strong pull in the market for straw-based applications, which are still extremely rare. Depending on the application, straw-based materials can be recyclable at their end of life.

 

Bamboo is ideal for ethanol production

The characteristics of bamboo

As a member of the Germaine family, the composition of bamboo is highly similar to other grasses used for biofuel (e.g. switch grass, Miscanthus). Its cell wall is comprised of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.

Bamboo has interesting potential as feedstock, for example, for advanced bioethanol production due to its natural abundance, rapid growth, perennial nature and low management requirements. Compared to other feedstock, it has a relatively high cellulose and low lignin content. In addition, it has high heat values and volatile contents, as well as lower ash and moisture content. All these characteristics make it well suited for bioenergy production.

Bamboo is extensively available in North East Part of India where the first refinery is being setup which will utilize 300,000 tons on bamboo (dry basis) annually.

Fortum's biorefinery project in India aims to convert bamboo into biofuel

Fortum has established a global joint venture to build a biorefinery in Assam, India, with Indian state-owned oil refinery company Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL). The first of its kind biorefinery will be based on formico-technology developed by Chempolis.

The plant will use 500,000 tonnes of green bamboo annually to produce bioethanol and high value platform chemicals such as acetic acid and furfural. Furfural will be further processed to produce furfuryl alcohol which has many significant industrial applications. The combustible residue, bio-coal and stillages will be used as fuel.

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Several products from fractionation

Cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin fractions can be further processed into products that have numerous application possibilities in a wide range of industries.

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