ECN is focusing on becoming a major R&D partner for companies in the biobased sector. The production of biofuels and bioenergy is, and will continue to be, very important. But the best business cases arise out of the creation of added value. This can be achieved through an optimal utilisation of the molecular capital in biomass, via the co-production of chemicals and high-grade materials.
Gasification unlocks the molecular capital in biomass
Going to market
In 2013, ECN's Finnish partner Andritz Oy launched a commercial system in the market that converts biomass into pellets that can be easily stored and transported. This occurred surprisingly quickly following the opening of a demonstration factory in Sønder Stenderup in Denmark in 2012. The system has been developed in cooperation with ECN.
Value addition via gasification
Together with the Dutch company Royal Dahlman, ECN further developed the gasification and gas cleaning technology and introduced it in the market in 2013. There are various applications for this technology, one of which is the production of biogas from waste wood and garden waste. Generation of electricity and heat is a second option. For this, Thermax, an internationally operating company for incineration plants, is building the first 4 MW plant in India, which will use soybean residues as fuel. Finally, ECN is examining whether added value can be created through the extraction of constituents, such as benzene and ethylene.
Together with chemicals research company Avantium, ECN is working on developing a biorefining process for the conversion of biomass into high-grade products. Avantium wants to produce plastics from non-edible biomass, such as wood chips and straw. ECN supplies the semi-finished product for this, by extracting sugars from biomass. The ECN process performed well in the laboratory. Various patent applications have been filed.