Clariant has begun construction of the first large-scale commercial Sunliquid plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol made from agricultural residues in Podari near Craiova in southwestern Romania. At the flagship facility, the Sunliquid technology developed by the company is being used on an industrial scale for the first time.
At full capacity, the plant will process around 250,000 tons of wheat and other cereal straw sourced from local farmers to 50,000 tons (~16.7 million gallons US) of cellulosic ethanol annually. By-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. The resulting cellulosic ethanol is therefore an advanced biofuel that is practically carbon-neutral.
The flagship plant testifies to the competitive viability and sustainability of the sunliquid technology on an industrial scale, and at the same time fulfills an important function as a reference facility for the worldwide marketing of sunliquid licenses.
The decision in favor of Craiova was due partly to the existence of a secure regional supply of feedstock and partly to the region’s existing logistic and industrial infrastructure. Construction of the plant will provide a whole range of benefits for the surrounding region of Craiova.
It will allow local farmers to industrially market straw for the first time, which was previously practically unutilized agricultural residue. During the construction phase of the new plant, several hundred construction workers will be employed from locally based companies wherever possible.
In the process, agricultural residue such as wheat straw and corn stover is converted into cellulosic sugars. This is followed by fermentation to produce cellulosic ethanol. By using plant residues, cellulosic ethanol can extend the current production of biofuels to new feedstock and contributes to optimizing the efficiency and sustainability of biofuels. Cellulosic sugars also have the potential to serve as a building block for future production of bio-based chemicals.
The sunliquid technology offers a fully integrated process design built on established process technology. Innovative technology features such as chemical-free pretreatment, the integrated production of feedstock-and process-specific enzymes, and simultaneous C5 and C6 sugar fermentation ensure optimum cost-effectiveness.