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An advanced platform for profitable and sustainable biorefining

Chempolis leads the field in developing innovative and sustainable biorefining solutions for the biomass, paper, biofuel, and chemical industries. formico® technologies deliver true sustainability – from highquality products and excellent profitability to lower CO2 emissions and reduced natural resource usage.

Growing population levels mean that people everywhere need to shift towards making more efficient use of global resources. Forest resources, for example, which are currently the main source of fibre for papermaking, are steadily diminishing, while residual agricultural biomass, generated as a by-product of food production, already equals 10 times the amount of wood used by the paper industry.

Non-wood and non-food residues such as straw, bagasse, corn stover, and reeds, represent a huge untapped – and highly sustainable – resource for producing ethanol for fuel, fibre for papermaking, and biochemicals for a variety of applications.

By processing non-wood and non-food raw materials in advanced biorefineries, we can reduce the pressure on the world’s forest resources, cut CO2 emissions, and help secure sufficient food for the world’s growing population. Biorefineries can also provide a valuable boost for the local economy in many rural areas.

Chempolis’ biorefinery offers customers a first-hand look at the company’s state-ofthe- art technologies. Photo: Sampo Anttila.

Fuel, fibre, and chemicals

Whether we are talking fuel, fibre, or chemicals, Chempolis’ formico® technologies offer an exciting solution. Using formicobio™ technology, for example, motor fuel can be produced from agricultural residues both cost-effectively and sustainably to meet the need for increasing volumes of fuel without impacting the food chain or causing erosion through felling forests or depleting other resources.

The growing shortage of wood in densely populated areas and increasing industrialisation – combined with the fact that paper, board, and tissue usage is growing the fastest in countries with small forest resources, large populations, and extensive agriculture, such as China and India – mean that the paper industry needs new raw material resources. With the help of formicofib™ technology, residual, renewable, and abundant non-wood resources can now be processed into high-quality papermaking fibre – profitably and sustainably.

Refining cellulosic biomass offers a very attractive alternative for the chemical industry, because this material can be converted into sugars, such as glucose and xylose, and lignin that can be further processed into the very same chemicals that are today refined from fossil oil.

There are already established markets for acetic acid and furfural, and the latter has a lot of potential as a platform chemical for producing biochemicals and as a biofuel additive.

Profitable co-production

Straw and other non-wood and non-food residues represent a huge untapped resource for producing ethanol for fuel use, fibre for papermaking, and biochemicals.
Biorefineries based on formico® technologies meet the three key requirements of sustainability – environmental, economic, and social – and can convert residues into a wide range of products. Third-generation formico® biorefining technologies offer a multi-product platform capable of generating higher sales revenues with lower investment and operation costs.

formicobio™ technology fractionates all the main components present in lignocellulose into cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin. High selectivity means that optimised processes can be used for each fraction to achieve high conversion levels and pure products – delivering some 40% higher sales revenues than second-generation technologies.

The pure cellulose produced can be enzymatically hydrolysed into pure glucose very easily, using less enzymes. This glucose can then be fermented into ethanol rapidly. The hemicellulose sugars can be processed into ethanol, furfural, and acetic acid, for example, while the pure lignin produced can be used to make a biorefinery selfsufficient in energy or refined into end-product for onward sale. Glucose offers excellent potential for processing into chemical products and for use in various applications.

formicofib™ technology offers a similar path to co-production, this time for papermaking fibre for paper, board, packaging, and hygiene products and biochemicals. The advanced chemistry at the heart of the technology results in selective delignification, which helps overcome the main problems faced in conventional non-wood pulping. The biosolvent and process water used are fully recovered and fewer process operations are needed compared to conventional non-wood pulping processes.

The ability to use energy and biochemicals generated in the process in the biorefinery itself results in lower operating costs.

“ Whether we are talking fuel, fibre, or chemicals, formico® technologies offer an exciting solution.”

The Indian Minister of New and Renewable Energy, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, visited the Chempolis Biorefining Park with a high-level delegation in April 20111. Photo: © Sampo Anttila, 2011.

Moving ahead in APAC

Chempolis is expanding strongly in Asia in both non-wood and non-food biorefining. Operations are run from the company’s APAC headquarters in Shanghai and have already been extended to other parts of South-East Asia, such as Thailand and India, which are particularly promising because of the availability of large amounts of non-food biomass ideal for biorefining purposes.

Technology showcase

Chempolis’ biorefinery provides customers with a first-hand look at what the company’s technologies can offer. Since its commissioning in 2009, the facility has been used to selectively fractionate customer-sourced biomasses on an industrial scale, test product properties, and generate detailed data for dimensioning the equipment and systems needed for large industrial biorefineries.

> Esa Rousu
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)