Innovation: Optimized pre-treatment of fast growing woody and nonwoody Brazilian crops by detailed characterization of chemical changes produced in the lignin-carbohydrate matrix

Last update: 22.07.2013
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Keywords: 
agricultural biotechnology, biotechnology
LIGNODECO or LIGNOcellulose DECOnstruction is the abbreviated name for “Optimized pre-treatment of fast growing woody and nonwoody Brazilian crops by detailed characterization of chemical changes produced in the lignin-carbohydrate matrix”, a collaborative research project funded by the EC, dedicated to international cooperation among five countries.

The project was run by a consortium formed by two world-leader companies from Brazil (Suzano) and the EU (Novozymes), four EU research institutes (CIB, CTP, IRNAS and VTT), and one Brazilian University (UFV), responsible for project coordination. There was great complementarity among participants. While UFV, CTP and Suzano have great understanding of pulp and paper technology including industrial applications, VTT, CIB and IRNAS are quite skilled in wood chemistry and advanced analytical tools. The strength of CIB and VTT on the development of new enzymes, associated with the industrial capability of Novozymes to produce and commercialize such enzymes, and provide their own products, facilitated the development of technologies with commercialization potential.

Therefore, the LIGNODECO project was based on a medium-size but highly competent and specialized consortium, in which some of the most reputed companies/institutions related to the topic of the call were involved.

PROJECT GOALS:

The primary objective of the LIGNODECO proposal was developing optimised/new pre-treatment technologies for deconstruction of high productivity and fast-growing Brazilian selected eucalypt clones and elephant grass lignocellulosic feedstock aimed at production of specialty pulps, biofuels and biomaterials, taking advantage of modern analytical techniques that enabled in-depth identification of the changes produced in the main plant polymers and other minor constituents.

The following six innovative concepts were combined in the LIGNODECO proposal:
i) Optimised deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass by tailor-made modifications of already-available technologies used by the paper-pulp industry (such as alkaline cooking and a novel organosolv process);
ii) New biotechnological pre-treatments for separation of lignocellulose constituents under mild conditions, based on the use of enzymes as industrial biocatalysts, in combination with physical/chemical pre- or post-treatments;
iii) Modern analytical techniques for characterization of lignin, hemicelluloses, cellulose and other biomass components in raw materials, processes and products, as a knowledge-based way for developing optimised pre-treatments;
iv) Fast-growing Brazilian hardwood (eucalypt clones) and grasses (Pennisetum spp) species as feedstock for future biofuels (bioethanol and biogas) production;
v) Novel high value-added cellulosic pulps from eucalypt and grasses for specialty papers, including fibre functionalization and improvement;
vi) Integrated use of xylan and lignin-containing by-products and effluents (in addition to cellulose) in energy and biogas production, as well as production of hemicellulose-based additives for wood pulps, and lignin-based chemicals.
The project will be developed by collaboration among institutions in Spain, France, Denmark, Finland and Brazil, coordinated by a Professor of UFV?s Department of Forest Engineering, Jorge Colodette. The Laboratory of Pulp and Paper will have four teachers and nine researchers conducting the project.

The approval of this project is very important UFV and Funarbe because it is the first time that the University assumes the coordination of a project linked to the European Commission. This is also the first case of a Brazilian coordination within the FP7 program. Funarbe will be the one in charge of the resource management , which will be responsible for receiving funds for the project, distributing them among the partners and managing the amount destined to UFV.
Goals and Contributions

Project Goals

The primary objective of the LIGNODECO proposal is the development of optimised/new pre-treatment technologies for deconstruction of high productivity and fast-growing Brazilian selected eucalypt clones and nonwoody lignocellulosic feedstock aimed at production of specialty pulps, biofuels and biomaterials, taking advance from the use of modern analytical techniques enabling in-depth identification of the changes produced in the main plant polymers and other minor constituents. The following six innovative concepts are combined in the LIGNODECO proposal:
i) Optimised deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass by tailor-made modifications of already-available technologies used by the paper-pulp industry (such as alkaline cooking and a novel organosolv process);
ii) New biotechnological pre-treatments for separation of lignocellulose constituents under mild conditions, based on the use of enzymes as industrial biocatalysts, in combination with physical/chemical pre- or post-treatments;
iii) Modern analytical techniques for characterizing of lignin, hemicelluloses, cellulose and other biomass components, in raw materials, processes and products, as a knowledge-based way for developing optimised pre-treatments;
iv) Brazil fast-growing species of hardwood (eucalypt clones) and grasses ( Pennisetum spp) as feedstock for future biofuels (bioethanol and biogas) production;
v) Novel high value-added cellulosic pulps from eucalypt and grasses for specialty papers, including fibre functionalization and improvement;
vi) Integrated use of xylan and lignin-containing by-products and effluents (in addition to cellulose use) in energy and biogas production, as well as to produce hemicellulose-based additives for wood pulps, and lignin-based chemicals.


Expected Impact and Contributions

The expected impact of LIGNODECO is to decrease the Europe’s dependency on fossil raw materials for production of chemicals and energy and to enable European industry to double its revenues within 10 years by efficient raw material exploitation and valorisation to specialty papers and biofuels.

LIGNODECO also seeks to transport the traditional pulp and paper industry, which faces challenges from low-cost competition, to a new business era by creating additional sector and cross-sector applications. This will increase the revenues obtained by the pulp and paper industry through new processes, added value products and new business models. It also fosters scale-intensive and specialised suppliers industry through the adoption and integration of new advanced technologies.

LIGNODECO contributes directly to EU policy initiatives to use bioresources leading to sustainable production processes, to reach 20% renewable products and energy by 2020 and to boost production by creating wood derived products as alternatives to petroleum-based products, by developing new product concepts from the forest side-streams and by developing technologies for maximized and value-added raw material utilization in the forest to mill value chain.

Finally, LIGNODECO will contribute in different extents to the implementation and evolution of the following EU policies

Industrial policy and employment is affected by improved competitiveness of the European pulp and paper industry as added-value is generated to the current process side-streams.

EU forestry strategy is positively affected by developing technologies for full exploitation of wood raw materials to value-added components.

Environment and sustainable development is affected by developing sustainable and targeted processes for valorisation of process side-streams of the forestry as well as pulp and paper processing industries and thereby minimizing their environmental impact.

European cohesion is improved by the multinational approach and by incorporation of industrial partners representing different aspects of the value chain.

Rural development is positively affected since co-location of pulp mills with new biorefinery industries or concepts would mean employment opportunities for the local communities in areas with depopulation and decreasing job opportunities.


Overview

The project is based on two lignocellulosic raw-materials - high-productivity and fast-growth Brazilian crops of clonal Eucalyptus and elephant grass ( Pennisetum americanum or P. purpureum ) - and combinations of enzymatic, chemical and/or mechanical pre-treatments for cell-wall deconstruction for sustainable production of biofuels, specialty grade pulps and chemicals (including pulp additives) in such a way that the side streams and effluents will also be processed for energy recovery (including biogas) and minimized water consumption. In-depth chemical characterisation of the different lignocellulose (structural and non-structural) constituents and their evolution at the three levels mentioned (raw materials, products and effluents) will be crucial for developing knowledge-based deconstruction pre-treatments.
The most significant LIGNODECO results were:
(1) establishment, among 23 different feedstocks, the 6 most suitable eucalypt clones and one elephant grass for production of special pulps, biofuels and bio-materials;
(2) selection, among six biomass deconstruction methods, the ones more adapted to each feedstock,
(3) development of a high yield (+6%) and high quality printing and writing paper grade pulp by deposition of xylans onto eucalypt Kraft pulp in the oxygen delignification stage (patented);
(4) production of a high strength eucalyptus Kraft pulp through fibre treatment with a specially designed cellulase blend (patented);
(5) development a highly absorbent tissue paper grade pulp (patent underway),
(6) advancing on a high biomass glucose-release organosolve pretreatment assisted with phosphinic acid for bioethanol production (patented);
(7) disclosing of a high yield non-sulfur alkaline deconstruction process adapted to Eucalyptus globulus wood containing lignin of high syringyl/guaiacyl ratio, (8) establishing a medium sugar release bio-mechanical pretreatment for bioethanol production,
(9) development of a biogas production method based on pulp mill effluent sludge,
(10) establishment of the soda/O2 and the organosolve deconstruction methods as the most suitable for bioethanol production,
(11) confirmation of the kraft process as the most adequate for paper pulp production regardless of feedstock and kappa level.

The findings number (4) and (6-8) were successfully demonstrated on a pilot scale.

Other significant findings included the establishment of lignin syringyl/guaiacyl ratio singular importance for the success of biomass deconstruction by any method, the possibility of replacing the Kraft by the Soda/AQ process in some biomass applications, the development of elephant grass as a prime material for bioethanol and pulp production, the understanding of the large variations that exists among different feedstocks, the adaptation of analytical tools for evaluation of a large variety of untreated and pretreated biomasses, determining the importance of mechanical treatments prior to enzymatic assisted deconstruction methods and the challenges associated with this technique, determining the challenges associated with the integration of biorefineries into the pulp and paper industry.
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This innovation is the result of the project

Title: Optimized Pre-Treatment Of Fast Growing Woody And Nonwoody Brazilian Crops By Detailed Characterization Of Chemical Changes Produced In The Lignin-Carbohydrate Matrix

Acronym: 
LIGNODECO

Runtime: 
01.01.2010 to 31.12.2012

Status: 
completed project

Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.

Please click on an entry to view all contact details.

UNIVERSIDADE FEDERAL DE VIÇOSA

(Brazil)

Role in project: Project Coordination

Contact person: COLODETTE Jorge Luiz

Contact

AGENCIA ESTATAL CONSEJO SUPERIOR DE INVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS

(Spain)

Contact person: Mr. ABAD RUIZ Carlos Manuel

Website: http://www.csic.es

Phone: +34-91-566-8852

Contact

CENTRE TECHNIQUE DE L'INDUSTRIE DES PAPIERS, CARTONS ET CELLULOSES

(France)

Contact person: Dr. PETIT-CONIL Michel

Website: http://www.webctp.com

Phone: +33-476154047

Contact

NOVOZYMES A/S

(Denmark)

Contact person: Mr. LUND Henrik

Website: http://www.novozymes.com

Phone: +45-44468502

Contact

SUZANO PAPEL E CELULOSE S.A

(Brazil)

Contact person: Mr. MILANEZ Augusto

Website: http://www.suzano.com.br

Phone: +55-1136365618

Contact

VALTION TEKNILLINEN TUTKIMUSKESKUS

(Finland)

Contact person: Ms. FLINCK Seija

Website: http://www.vtt.fi

Phone: +358-207225401

Contact