EU funds BioSynergy project

By Jessica Ebert
A €13 million (US $18 million) collaborative effort in the European Union (EU), called BioSynergy, is pulling together 17 partners, including industry, academic and government research laboratories, to accelerate technologies for the cost-effective use of biomass in the production of transportation fuels, power and value-added byproducts. The European Commission, through its sixth Framework Program, contributed €7 million (US$9.6 million) to this effort.

"The project came about from certain ideas about how the biorefinery can contribute to the further development of biomass-especially lignocellulose and residues-as feedstocks to make biomass-derived products more cheaply," said Hans Reith, project coordinator and member of the biomass research group at the Energy Research Center in the Netherlands.

The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a European perspective of biorefinery processes that can be implemented across the continent. The basic scheme for the project falls into several integrated work packages that will be carried out by the project partners over the next four years. The overall aims of these packages include:

• developing innovative fractionation technologies for the physical and/or chemical separation of some of Europe's major biomass feedstocks (barley straw, wheat straw, distillers dried grains with solubles, and wood chips)
• developing thermochemical and bio-chemical conversion pathways that could potentially be combined to process feedstocks into transportation fuels and intermediate products such as butanol, phenolic oils and furfural-intermediates that will serve as platform chemicals for the synthesis of a host of value-added chemicals
• designing downstream tactics for synthesizing value-added chemicals and fuels from intermediates
• identifying the most promisingbiorefinery chains for the EU as a whole-as well as for specific market sectors based on energy efficiency, environmental performance and cost-and to quantify the environmental effects of these overall chains
• implementing and demonstrating the technologies that stem from the project on a pilot scale in close collaboration with the lignocellulose-to-ethanol pilot plant at Greencell, an Abengoa Bioenergy project currently under construction near Salamanca, Spain

"I think what is rather unique in this proposal is that there is a strong integration of both biochemical and thermochemical conversion technologies," said Ed de Jong, head of the fiber and paper technology group at Agrotechnology and Food Innovations in the Netherlands. "We look at fermentation, but we also look at pyrolysis and gasification. It is the combinations that are unique."

Specific details and results of the planned research will be made available at