Speciality chemicals producer Clariant has announced approval from its board of directors to invest in a new full-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Romania.
When complete, the new facility will produce cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues using sunliquid technology. With an annual production capacity of 50,000 tonnes, the facility will be a flagship site to demonstrate the competitiveness and sustainability of the sunliquid technology at commercial scale, in turn supporting Clariant’s sunliquid licensing business strategy.
"Clariant is continually investing in the development of sustainable products and innovative solutions such as sunliquid,” said Christian Kohlpaintner, a member of the Executive Committee at Clariant.
"This pioneering process demonstrates the production of efficient and sustainable advanced biofuel and has great potential as a technology platform for a variety of biobased materials. It is a further illustration of Clariant’s successful innovation strategy, as this technology provides additional growth potential to an already strong portfolio."
Clariant has set-up a new Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives, as part of its Catalysis business area, to allow further focus on the commercialisation of bioethanol, licenses and enzymes. From January 2018, all activities and costs related to the sunliquid technology platform will be transferred from Corporate Costs to the Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives.
Earlier this year, Clarinant announced it had signed the first sunliquid technology license agreement with Enviral, Slovakia’s largest bioethanol producer. The agreement will see Enviral use Clariant’s technology to construct a full-scale commercial plant for cellulosic ethanol production in Slovakia.
"After five years of operating our pre-commercial sunliquid plant in Straubing, Germany, and thorough process demonstration we are now ready to scale-up to the next level", explains Markus Rarbach, Head of Start-up Business Biofuels & Derivatives at Clariant.
"It is the next big step into an attractive market and a significant advancement in the successful commercialisation of this highly innovative and sustainable technology". The investment also brings substantial economic benefits to the region. By locally sourcing feedstock, greenhouse gas savings can be maximised and additional business opportunities arise in the region along the value chain."
The new plant is expected to deliver its first batch of product in 2020. At full capacity it will process approximately 250,000 tonnes of wheat straw and other cereal straw annually, which will be sourced from local farmers. Co-products from the process will be used for the generation of renewable energy with the goal of making the plant independent from fossil energy sources. Consequently, the resulting cellulosic ethanol is an almost carbon neutral advanced biofuel.