The SMIBIO Project aims to achieve the following specific objectives:
- To enlarge the scope of exploitable biomass feedstock in the biorefinery by using domestic and agro-industrial biomass residues and livestock waste at full-scale to create better conditions in rural areas in LAC countries and EU for the deployment of production sites close to agro-industrial areas.
- To obtain reliable experimental data, both for material and energy, so that the best process biorefineries configurations can be modeled.
- To develop a highly integrated biorefinery concept by incorporating individual processes (LCB and ADB) that synergistically converts different biomass feedstocks (dry and wet) into power, biofuels and value-added chemicals.
- To determine the best strategy for the implementation of the new bio industry-oriented concept into the existing food agribusiness based on business prospect, environmental sustainability, and social impact.
Four different rural/urban small-scale biorefineries (2 in EU and 2 in LAC countries) will be extensively studied, simulated and modeled under proper and real conditions.
For each business case the biomass availability based on cost supply curves at regional level, the logistic supply chain, the market needs and local and national regulations shall be studied and assessed. Thus the best technical-economic integrated biorefinery to process the local biomass for each considered region shall be identified.
The SMIBIO Project outcomes are expected to contribute significantly to the successful implementation of future biomass policies for reducing the risk of health and environmental impacts caused by the non-optimal use of agro-industrial wastes and significantly increase farm productivity and thus improve household livelihoods of farmers.
The possible biomasses can be categorized as either dry or wet. The bioconversion of dry biomass (in general lignocellulose) into added-value products usually involves fractionation and hydrolysis of polymers (carbohydrates and lignin) into monomers that can further be converted into a wide variety of products. The conversion of wet biomass (livestock manures and wastewater streams) generally involves fermentation or anaerobic digestion.
Lignocellulosic Biorefinery (LCB)
In terms of technology development the Lignocellulosic Biorefinery (LCB) concept is probably the most advanced. Lignocellulosic biorefineries utilize “naturally dry” biomass feedstock such as wood, agricultural residues, energy crops and municipal waste. The concept represents a logical progression of a 2nd generation lignocellulosic bioethanol facility towards a more advanced biorefinery system producing a broader array of products. Lignocellulosic biomass is a rich source of fixed carbon incorporated into a range of polymers comprising mainly polysaccharides and lignin. Lignocellulosic plant biomass also contains a wide range of less abundant chemicals and polymers including those derived from extractives (phenols, sterols, waxes and fatty acids) as well as proteins and/or pectins.
In the LCB, the hexose and pentose sugars will be converted into bioethanol and higher value chemicals, such as organic acids. Lignin itself represents a potentially valuable resource for aromatic high-added value chemicals, such as phenols, vanillin and derivatives or it can be utilized for biomaterial applications or as a fuel to provide heat and power for the LCB.
Anaerobic Digestion (AD)
Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a proven technology for livestock and wastewater treatment. However, as the organic material becomes more valuable and is being treated as resources, traditional AD processes need to be further developed to increase value creation. AD can be part of sustainable biochemical and biofuels-based biorefinery concepts (Anaerobic Digestion Biorefinery, ADB) as it can derive value from wet streams.
The biorefinery concept to be developed within the SMIBIO Project is a highly-integrated energy-efficient complex, incorporating individual processes (LCB and ADB) that synergistically convert different biomass feedstocks (dry and wet) into power, biofuels and value-added chemicals and biomaterials. These small-scale biorefineries will be able to use a biomass–feedstock mix to produce a multiplicity of most various products by the integration of multi-technologies with the objective of creating new employment opportunities, generate new economic incomes and contribute to reduce environmental impacts in rural CELAC and Europe regions.
Methodologies and Technologies
The research activity will be focused on the implementation and simulation of bioprocesses, most of them region-specific, to produce bio products, biomaterials, bulk chemicals and biofuels from the most common biomass found in rural and small urban areas in LAC countries and the EU.
To model and predict the performance of the new integrated biorefinery concept, processes in both, the LCB and ADB value chains will be split into their constituent elements (steps) for an individual study of the performance. The process characteristics for all value chains (e.g. flowrates, compositions, temperatures, pressures, properties, equipment sizes, etc.) will be predicted using analysis techniques such as mathematical models, empirical correlations and computer-aided process simulation tools (e.g. ASPEN Plus).
In addition, the process analysis will involve the use of experimental means to predict and validate the performance.
In order to investigate different conditions for the chosen integrated biorefinery plant, simulations will be performed.
Moreover, as well an economic analysis will be conducted.
Along with biological conversions (either for the anaerobic digestion platform or also for the lignocellulose platform), green chemistry processes will be simulated since their target products shall evolve mainly from hemicelluloses-derived materials and lignin-derived products.
The business opportunities created by the new integrated biorefinery will be assessed in selected rural/urban areas taking into account socioeconomic and societal impacts and aspects of the intervention. The foreseen criteria include the potential internal rate of return, market uncertainty, technical/regulatory uncertainty and time-to-market. Technical and nontechnical barriers for setting up new spin off farmer-owned processing facilities will be also evaluated.