World’s first lignocellulose biorefinery is on its way


Leuna – Peak oil prices and depleted fossil resources have dragged biomass into the limelight in the chemical industry. In Germany, pioneering work to use wood waste to produce bioplastics, platform chemicals or energy in a biorefinery has begun. In mid-June, a consortium of 15 research groups – including those from Bayer Technology GmbH, Evonik Degussa, Wacker Chemie AG, and the SMEs Dynea Erkner, Tecnaro and InfraLeuna GmbH – received an initial a8.5m tranche of funding to set up the world’s first lignocellulose pilot plant at the traditional chemistry production site in Leuna. The facility they are planning to build will be able to break down cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin into glucose, xylose and phenols. It is part of a a50m fund set up for the Chemical Bio­tech Process Center (CBP), a complete bio­refinery designed to scale-up biotechnological conversions from the lab to the pilot scale, a prerequisite for companies to commercialise such technologies.
To be managed by the Fraunhofer Ge­sellschaft and Linde-KCA Dresden, the pilot biorefinery will feature seven plants where biotech processes can be upscaled. In contrast to plant-made starches, conversion of wood waste to chemical products is promising because wood is significantly cheaper than raw oil (EUR70/t vs. EUR480/t).

Breaking the bonds = Big money

The cellulose and hemicellulose building blocks of wood can be converted to glucose and xylose, whereas lignin can be degraded to phenol, a precursor for many chemical products.
The profitability of the biorefinery will depend primarily on the exploitation of lignin, which is difficult to crack economically. In the consortium, Wacker Chemie AG has already begun to develop pro­cesses for its enzymatic breakdown, while Dynea Erkner is very interested in the production of bioplastics from phenol building blocks. Evonik Degussa GmbH and Bayer Technology Services GmbH are also looking at how to use wood waste as an alternative feed for the sugar supply.



The first of February marked a milestone for Leverkusen-based Bio­frontera AG in more ways than one. It was the first day that Ameluz, the firm’s first approved product, could be sold in German pharmacies. It was also the date...



Darmstadt – German pharmaceutical and chemical company Merck KGaA has set a downbeat tone for 2012. CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley said the recently launched cost-cutting programme and tough economic conditions will weigh on profits this...



Mainz/Leuna – Two biotech concepts were amongst the winners of the recent third round of the Excellence Cluster initiative, which is funded by the German Ministry for Research. In Mainz the champagne corks popped especially loud...



German Merck KGaA has closed a licencing agreement with US-based Threshold Pharmaceuticals Inc. The cooperation centres around the hypoxia­-activated drug TH-302, which is currently being studied in a global Phase III study....



Munich – Looking back with satisfaction and bent on a prize for good behaviour, German biopharmaceutical company Wilex AG reported yesterday on the fiscal year 2011 and outlined the shores in sight. The 2011 total revenue was...



Brussels – European cartilage researchers intensify their cooperation. The 'gristle network' comprises scientists from Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg. Its members plan to meet regularly to exchange views and information...


Thousand Oaks/Munich - Bling bling for blinatumomab. It is a compliment for the European life sciences scene and sad news at the same time. Amgen Inc., the world's largest biotechnology company, agreed to buy Micromet Inc., an...



Martinsried - SHELTER is responsible for the fact that the stocks of 4SC behaved like a rodeo horse on Thursday. The shares rose in several stages up to 63%, only to settle at a mere 43% rise at the end of the day. SHELTER is a...



Ludwigshafen – BASF Plant Science GmbH, the agrochemistry and biotech arm of the world-largest chemistry company, thinks that it has outstayed its welcome in Europe. Over the next two years, most of the green biotechnology...



Munich - It is the accolade for Micromet. The German company, which is listed on the U.S. stock exchange, announced today that it has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the renowned US...

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