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COMMERCIAL-SCALE FLAGSHIP PLANT FOR THE PRODUCTION OF CELLULOSIC ETHANOL

In Romania, Clariant is building a new commercial-scale plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues based on the sunliquid® technology. The plant with an annual capacity of 50,000 tons of cellulosic ethanol will be located in Podari near Craiova in the southwestern part of Romania.

sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol is an advanced, truly sustainable and carbon-neutral biofuel that can readily be used in our existing cars infrastructure. It is produced from agricultural residues such as wheat straw, which are sourced from local farmers.

The first-of-its-kind facility will generate new green jobs, business opportunities and economic growth in a rural area. With the flagship plant, Clariant intends to demonstrate that the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol on the basis of the sunliquid® technology is technically feasible, economically viable and competitive.

By building the new plant, a new bio-based value chain built on agricultural residues will be established in the region, providing a tangible example for a successful circular economy approach. At the same time, this plant lays the foundation for a wide-scale implementation of advanced biofuels production in Europe and for a more sustainable energy supply in the European transport sector.

Clariant is investing more than EUR 100 million in its first sunliquid® plant. The project receives more than EUR 40 million funding from the European Union. In this frame, the EU project SUNLIQUID is funding tasks focusing on the scoping, planning and execution phases to build a first-of-its-kind sunliquid® production plant. This includes feedstock availability evaluation and feedstock sourcing activities, as well as the development of an efficient logistics supply chain for the lignocellulosic raw material. The EU project LIGNOFLAG is funding tasks focusing on building and operating the production plant, which includes optimizing the conversion to cellulosic ethanol, using co-products for energy production and soil fertilization, as well as organizing the distribution of the final (co-)products.

Feedstock

  • Extension of current biofuel production to new, currently underutilized agricultural residues
  • Annual conversion of 250,000 tons of straw into cellulosic ethanol

Production capacity

  • 50,000 tons of cellulosic ethanol annually

Green jobs & economic growth

  • Creation of green jobs in predominantly rural areas
  • Inside the plant: around 100 full-time employees
  • Outside the plant (field/logistics): around 300 persons
  • Jobs associated with the construction of the plant: over 800
  • Boost of local economies and creation of additional business opportunities
  • Additional income for farmers and local businesses

Milestones

  • 2006: Development of highly specialised microorganisms and enzymes
  • 2009: Opening of a pilot plant in Munich, Germany, in which the sunliquid® technology is developed and optimized
  • 2012: Opening of a demonstration plant in Straubing, Germany, for pre-commercial production
  • Fall 2018: Groundbreaking for a commercial-scale production plant for cellulosic ethanol sunliquid® in the southwestern part of Romania

Environmental impact

In today’s growing efforts to limit global warming, action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially in the transport sector, where GHG emissions are still increasing, is inevitable. Cellulosic ethanol, an advanced biofuel, presents a low-emission, carbon-neutral solution.

Clariant’s sunliquid® is a highly innovative and sustainable technology to produce cellulosic ethanol and cellulosic sugars from agricultural residues such as cereal straw, corn stover, or sugarcane bagasse. No fossil-based energy sources are required in the sunliquid® process, as it obtains all of its energy from the combustion of residual flows, mainly lignin that remains after extracting the cellulose from the lignocellulose and is, therefore, energy self-sufficient. Taking carbon capture into consideration, the greenhouse gas savings could reach up to ~120%. Vinasse can be used as an organic fertilizer and brought back to the field, thus providing a tangible example of a circular economy.

For more details on the use of co-products click here.

Benefits for the environment

  • Taking carbon capture into consideration, the greenhouse gas savings could reach up to ~120%
  • Support of the transformation from a fossil-based economy to a bio-based circular economy
  • Establishment of an energy self-sufficient, highly sustainable production process for cellulosic ethanol by using co-products lignin and vinasse
  • Creation of a sustainable and competitive source of domestic renewable energy in the EU

Economic impact of the sunliquid® plant

Clariant will invest more than EUR 100 million for the construction of the cellulosic ethanol plant. During the construction phase this can create over 800 jobs. On the industrial platform, we intend to create around 100 direct jobs in the long term. In addition, about 300 jobs can be created in connected businesses, e.g. the collection, storage and transportation of straw. Furthermore, the sunliquid® plant will create a suppliers network, mainly formed by local farmers. They will have the opportunity to convert agricultural residues, such as cereal straw, into an additional source of income.

Boosting the advanced biofuel market in Europe

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) is setting the tone for creating a stable and predictable business environment that will trigger the development of investments in advanced biofuel production within the EU. Thus as long-term benefit for Romania, the sunliquid® technology opens up new opportunities on an expanding global market for second-generation biofuels. It creates the premises for Romania to be a leading country within the EU to expand its renewable energy footprint.

From a fossil-based economy to a bio-based circular economy

A wide-scale implementation of advanced biofuels production in Europe will create a sustainable and competitive source of domestic renewable energy for the EU, making it less dependent on oil imports from outside the EU. The development of an advanced biofuels industry in Europe will also support the necessary transformation from a fossil-based economy to a bio-based, circular economy.

Benefits for the economy

  • Boost of local economies through creation of green jobs predominantly in rural areas
  • Economic growth and additional business opportunities for all actors along the value chain
  • Collaboration within and linking of the agricultural, logistics, energy and biochemical sector

The sunliquid® technology

Clariant’s sunliquid® is a highly innovative and sustainable technology to produce cellulosic sugars and cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues. The sunliquid® technology offers a completely integrated process design.

Main features of the sunliquid® technology

  • Chemical-free pre-treatment
  • Integrated enzyme production: reduces costs to a minimum, eliminates storage and transport costs
  • Optimized tailor-made enzymes
  • Efficient co-fermentation of C5 and C6 sugars
  • Energy self-sufficient
  • Carbon negative impact

Technology proven application of cellulosic ethanol

The high quality and sustainability of sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol has been proven in several applications. For example, in a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz and Haltermann, Clariant successfully deployed sunliquid®20, a premium-grade E20 blend, in a fleet test with Mercedes Benz service vehicles.

In Brazil at Clariant’s Suzano plant, ethanol-fueled Scania trucks are used to transport chemical products. The Ecotrucks, as they are known, started using second-generation ethanol produced from sugarcane bagasse using Clariant's sunliquid® technology.

In a collaboration with Werner & Mertz, the producer of Frosch® products, the application of cellulosic ethanol has been extended to detergents, cleansers and cleaning agents. sunliquid® bioethanol has been used in Frosch® Bio-Spirit Multisurface-Cleaner. This project already shows, that the application of the technology is not limited to the transport sector. It offers access to a platform for conversion of agricultural residues into a range of chemicals for different industries and applications. .

For more details on the sunliquid® technology click here.

sunliquid® licensing

Clariant licenses its sunliquid® technology platform globally. So far, four license agreements have been executed with renowned industry players in Slovakia, Poland, China and Bulgaria.

August 17, 2020

Clariant forges strategic partnership with Chemtex in China for its sunliquid® technology

Clariant’s Business Line Biofuels and Derivatives announced on August 15 during a joint presentation at the 7th Asia-Pacific Biomass Utilization Summit in Guangzhou that a strategic partnership has been formed with Chemtex Global Corporation for the realization of second-generation biofuel projects. Under the partnership, the two parties will collaborate to market and sell Clariant’s sunliquid® technology licenses, as well as services and supplies for advanced biofuel plants in China. More

July 27, 2020

Clariant and Eta Bio announce license agreement on sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol technology in Bulgaria

Clariant and Eta Bio signed a license agreement for the sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol technology. More

January 06, 2020

Clariant and Anhui Guozhen and Chemtex announce license agreement on sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol technology in China

Clariant, a focused and innovative specialty chemical company, and Anhui Guozhen Group, a Chinese green energy company, and Chemtex Chemical Engineering, a multinational engineering company, today signed a license agreement on sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol technology. More

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Dragos Gavriluta
Dragos Gavriluta
Country Head Romania

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Lorena Bogdan
Lorena Bogdan
Administrative Assistant
+40723205988

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Liviu Ungureanu
Liviu Ungureanu
Site Manager Podari

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Paul Popescu
Paul Popescu
Feedstock and Supply Manager
+40720067001

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The project receives funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Program for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement no. 322386 (SUNLIQUID) and from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under Grant Agreement no. 709606 (LIGNOFLAG).

Romania Sunliquid project

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