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Biorefinery for the bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg (B4B)

Biogas, microalgae and lignocellulose are the three most important fields in Baden-Württemberg's bioeconomy research strategy. The material use of lignocellulose-containing biomass is being investigated in a pilot plant at the University of Hohenheim. BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg is working in cooperation with the University of Hohenheim and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

Harvesting miscanthus
Miscanthus harvest in spring © BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

The objective of this project is the development and operation of a biorefinery plant at the Unterer Lindenhof trial station belonging to the University of Hohenheim (UHOH). This modular pilor plant is designed to demonstrate the conversion of basically all components of lignocellulosic biomass into platform chemicals.

Miscanthus biomass will be broken down into a carbohydrate and a lignin fraction using acidic hydrolysis. In subsequent processing steps, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) will be derived from the hexoses, furfural from the pentoses and bifunctional, phenolic compounds from the lignin fraction. These compounds represent important platform chemicals for producing materials and chemicals. Ecological (life cycle assessment, LCA) and economic evaluations (techno-economic assessment, TEA) provide the basis for a holistic assessment of market opportunities. BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg will carry out an analysis of product usage options, market potential and possible stakeholders, which will form the basis for developing concepts and scenarios for product usage and market launch.

Expansion of the pilot plant to biorefinery

A highly integrative approach is being pursued with the aim of making the greatest possible contribution to the implementation of a biorefinery concept with the project funds available. The scientific basis of the project was established in various projects during the first funding period of the Bioeconomy Research Programme Baden-Württemberg and other projects. The expansion to a biorefinery pilot plant within the framework of B4B is based on an HMF production plant at the Unterer Lindenhof trial station, which is currently under construction. Modules for the use of hemicellulose (subproject 1) and lignin (subproject 2) will subsequently be added to expand this HMF production plant into an integrated biorefinery that makes material use of all main components of lignocellulose. Lignin conversion will involve the use of a mobile plant component located at the KIT Institute of Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT), and will be supplemented by a product fractionation module. The goal of the project is the joint operation of all modules in a continuous system to produce product samples on a kilogramme scale. They will form the basis for the cost analysis carried out by the KIT’s Institute for Industrial Production (IIP) and thus determine the possible use of the products in subprojects 3 and 4.

Proximity to raw material production and beacon for the bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg

Model of an "on-farm" biorefinery on the Unterer Lindenhof trial station
Model of an "on-farm" biorefinery on the Unterer Lindenhof trial station © BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

The location at the Unterer Lindenhof trial station appears to be advantageous for the planned biorefinery. The proximity to biomass production underlines the close connection between biomass production and processing, which is necessary for the bioeconomy. In particular, regional utilisation potential will be determined and evaluated for the selected process chain or product portfolio, for example by using miscanthus or beech wood as feedstock.

The biorefinery will become a visible beacon for the bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg and serve as a platform for other users in further process and product optimisations in new projects and collaborations. Exchanges between existing and, if required, new partners from the scientific community will take place in workshops in coordination with the Bioeconomy Research Programme Baden-Württemberg coordination office. BIOPRO will identify partners from industry and other stakeholders for product and market development through subproject 4 (TP4) and integrated into the project.

The potential product range based on the platform chemicals produced includes

  • adhesives & binders
  • resins, PU foams
  • plasticisers & solvents
  • lubricants
  • biopolymers
  • basic chemicals for further use in the pharmaceutical/cosmetic/food sectors

Within the scope of the development of corresponding process and value chains, different plant sizes will be examined for their economic viability. Amongst other things, the scenario of an "on-farm" biorefinery, located directly on a farm, will be examined for feasibility.

The pilot plant is located at Unterer Lindenhof, a trial station belonging to the University of Hohenheim. The pilot plant can be visited on appointment. Further information is available from the contact person.

The B4B: Biorefinery for the Bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg project started in October 2018 and is funded for a period of 24 months.

Website address: https://www.bio-pro.de/en/projects/biorefinery-bioeconomy-baden-wurttemberg-b4b