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Clariant to build flagship sunliquid cellulosic ethanol plant in Romania

Specialty chemicals company Clariant announced the approval by its Board of Directors to invest in a new full-scale commercial plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues using its sunliquid technology.

The new plant, with an annual production capacity of 50,000 tons, will be built in the southwestern part of Romania. The facility will be a flagship site, confirming competitiveness and sustainability of the sunliquid technology at commercial scale, in support of Clariant’s sunliquid licensing business strategy.

At full capacity, the new plant will process approximately 250,000 tons 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. As such, the resulting cellulosic ethanol is an almost carbon-neutral advanced biofuel.

The sunliquid process uses a bespoke enzyme mixture to hydrolyze cellulose and hemicellulose chains to form sugars. The enzymes are highly optimized based on feedstock and process parameters, resulting in maximum yields and short reaction times under optimal conditions.

Using optimized microorganisms, the sunliquid one-pot system simultaneously converts both C5 and C6 sugars to ethanol, delivering up to 50% more ethanol than conventional processes which convert only C6 sugars.

To further focus on the commercialization of bio-ethanol, licenses and enzymes, Clariant has set-up a new Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives, as part of the Business Area Catalysis. As of January 2018, all activities and costs related to the sunliquid technology platform will be transferred from Corporate Costs to the Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives.

In September this year, Clariant already announced a successful step towards increasing the commercial attractiveness of its sunliquid technology by signing the first technology license agreement with Enviral, a member of the Envien Group. (Earlier post.)

Next steps are detailed engineering studies before the ground breaking and start of construction, which is planned for 2018. The plant is anticipated to deliver its first batch of product in 2020.


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