Clariant to build sunliquid cellulosic ethanol plant in Romania

By Clariant | October 31, 2017

Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, recently announced the approval by the board of directors to invest in a new full-scale commercial plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues using its sunliquid technology. The new plant, with an annual production capacity of 50,000 tons (16.7 million gallons), will be built in the southwestern part of Romania. The facility will be a flagship site, confirming competitiveness and sustainability of the sunliquid technology at commercial scale thus supporting Clariant’s sunliquid licensing business strategy. 

“Clariant is continually investing in the development of sustainable products and innovative solutions such as sunliquid. This pioneering process demonstrates the production of efficient and sustainable advanced biofuels and has great potential as a technology platform for a variety of biobased materials. It is a further illustration 0f Clariant’s successful innovation strategy, as this technology provides additional growth potential to an already strong portfolio,” says Christian Kohlpaintner, member of the executive committee at Clariant.

To further focus on the commercialization of bioethanol, licenses and enzymes, Clariant has set-up a new Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives, as part of the Business Area Catalysis. As of January 2018, all activities and costs related to the sunliquid technology platform will be transferred from Corporate Costs to the Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives.

In September this year, Clariant already announced a successful step towards increasing the commercial attractiveness of its sunliquid technology by signing the first technology license agreement with Enviral, a member of the Envien Group. 

“After five years of operating our pre-commercial sunliquid plant in Straubing, Germany, and thorough process demonstration we are now ready to scale-up to the next level,” explains Markus Rarbach, head of start-up business biofuels and derivatives at Clariant. “It is the next big step into an attractive market and a significant advancement in the successful commercialization of this highly innovative and sustainable technology. The investment also brings substantial economic benefits to the region. By locally sourcing feedstock, greenhouse gas savings can be maximized and additional business opportunities arise in the region along the value chain.”

Next steps are detailed engineering studies before the ground breaking and start of construction, which is planned for 2018. The plant is anticipated to deliver its first batch of product in 2020. Peak sales from the sunliquid cellulosic ethanol plant are expected to be in the mid double-digit million range. This achievement is part of and results from Clariant’s biotechnology innovation expertise1

At full capacity, the new plant will process approximately 250,000 tons of wheat straw and other cereal straw annually, which will be sourced from local farmers. Co-products from the process will be used for the generation of renewable energy with the goal of making the plant independent from fossil energy sources. Therefore, the resulting cellulosic ethanol is an almost carbon neutral advanced biofuel. 

Cellulosic ethanol is an advanced and truly sustainable biofuel which is almost carbon neutral. It is produced from agricultural residue such as wheat straw and corn stover that is obtained from farmers. The straw is converted into cellulosic sugars followed by fermentation of cellulosic sugars to cellulosic ethanol. By using agricultural residue, cellulosic ethanol can extend current biofuels production to new feedstocks and improved performance. Cellulosic sugars also have the potential to serve as a building block for future production of bio-based chemicals.

The sunliquid technology offers a completely integrated process design built on established process technology. Innovative technology features like the integrated production of feedstock and process specific enzymes and simultaneous C5 and C6 sugars fermentation ensure best in class commercial performance.