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Issue 01/2019

  • Text
  • Renewable
  • Sustainable
  • Packaging
  • Biodegradable
  • Materials
  • Products
  • Plastics
  • Biobased
  • Bioplastics
Highlights: Automotive Foam Basics: Green public procurement Cover Story: PHB for food packaging

Materials Low-cost

Materials Low-cost cellulosic sugars for biop Waste oil palm empty fruit bunches (EFB) leafCOAT – corrugated product In the shift towards a sustainable biobased economy, the production of bioplastics requires a low-cost, high-quality source of sugars. With growing interest in non-food sugars for biobased manufacturing, more and more companies are considering alternative feedstocks such as agricultural and forestry residues. Currently, the technologies used to break down plant biomass are costly and require large amounts of energy and chemicals. This makes it difficult for cellulosic sugars to compete against agro-based feedstocks like industrial cane sugar, beet sugar, corn or cassava, for example. Leaf Resources (Darra, Queensland, Australia), a global leader empowering the growth of green chemistry, has pioneered a technology which reduces the cost of extracting cellulosic sugars from plant biomass. Using advanced chemistry and engineering, the company’s Glycell process produces higher yields of high-purity sugars, more quickly and using less energy than rival processes. Leaf’s Glycell process has the potential to reshape the economics of producing bioplastics from non-food biomass feedstocks. Lignocellulosic biomass, an abundant renewable resource Bioplastics can be manufactured from renewable plant materials such as starch, cellulose, oils, lignin, proteins and polysaccharides. Most biobased plastics are currently manufactured using starch as a feedstock. However, carbohydrate-rich plants such as corn or sugar cane, known as first generation feedstock, have attracted criticism because of potential competition with food and animal feed. Non-food crops such as lignocellulosic biomass represent a sustainable and abundant alternative. It is estimated that there is currently enough biomass to produce USD750 billion worth of cellulosic sugars per year and replace petroleum in thousands of plastic products. However, converting plant biomass into its constituent polymers is challenging. A complex structure interlinks cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, making them difficult to separate. The techniques used to deconstruct lignocellulosic biomass also result in varying cellulose quality. Leaf’s Glycell process significantly improves the digestibility of biomass, reducing the severity of the conditions required to produce high-quality cellulosic sugars. Pioneering pretreatment process To extract cellulosic sugars, biomass must undergo a pretreatment process. Glycell uses waste glycerol from biodiesel production as the main reagent to pretreat biomass in standard pulping equipment. Using glycerol yields a slurry which has much greater enzyme kinetics for cellulose to sugar conversion. As a result, Glycell produces 25 % more sugars at a faster rate than rival approaches larger using lower temperature and pressure. Leaf’s process uses industrially-tailored enzymes from Novozymes (Bagsvaer, Denmark) to convert cellulose into C6 sugars, which can be transformed into renewable chemicals for use in bioplastics. Glycell is proven to produce cellulosic sugars from a range of feedstocks, including Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus Globulus), poplarwood chips, sugar cane bagasse, palm empty fruit bunch (EFB), wheat straw, rice husk and corn stover. High-value co-products and applications In addition to being a more efficient pre-treatment process, Glycell creates high market value co-products, further improving the project economics of cellulosic sugar production and the manufacturing cost of secondgeneration bioplastics. Glycell recovers and refines glycerol from 80 to 95 % purity. Purer form glycerol can be sold to the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, animal feed and lubricants industries. What is more, unlike other biomass pretreatment methods, Glycell does not alter lignin’s molecular structure. Instead, the 32 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/19] Vol. 14

Materials lastics production process produces native form lignin, a type of lignin which can be more easily converted to high value applications. Leaf’s technology portfolio also includes LeafCOAT TM , a biobased and recyclable coating made using the main Glycell co-products, lignin and refined glycerol. Conversion of local waste biomass in Malaysia Leaf’s first commercial plant will process waste palm Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB), for which there is a large oversupply near the company’s proposed biorefinery in Segamat, in Johor state, Malaysia. With 52 palm mills within a 120 km radius of Leaf’s proposed plant and strong government support for bioeconomy stakeholders, Malaysia represents an exciting long-term location for cellulosic sugar production. Asia is also a major bioplastics production hub. In 2018, more than 50 % of bioplastics were produced in Asia. Ahead of the construction of the Malaysian plant, Leaf has signed a Letter of Intent with Biovision & Greenergy (B&G) for the supply of 100,000 BDT 1 of waste palm EFB per year and an exclusive agreement with HB international for the supply of raw glycerol and sale of refined glycerol. Bioplastics from second generation feedstock Leaf Resources is committed to building a global business based on renewable carbon. Through biobased innovation, the company transforms waste biomass into feedstock for the modern bioeconomy. Global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from around 2.1 million tonnes in 2018 to 2.6 million tonnes in 2023. With consumer demand for more environmentallybenign products driving interest in second generation feedstocks, the Glycell process represents a real economic breakthrough for bioplastics production from lignocellulosic biomass. Markets and governments in the USA and Europe are sending the message that it’s time to start phasing out conventional plastic. With a biorefinery located in a regional hub for bioplastics production, Leaf Resources is poised to capitalise and contribute to the global growth in bioplastics uptake. By: Ken Richards Managing Director Leaf Resources Darra, Queensland, Australia 1: BDT = Bone dry tons. This is a measurement of biomass that has zero percent moisture content. bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/19] Vol. 14 33

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