Alkol BioTech to supply cane feedstock to BRD

By Erin Voegele | January 16, 2018

In Europe, Bio Refinery Development BV recently signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Alkol Biotech for the supply of up to 500,000 tons of non-woody biomass annually for use in a proposed biorefinery. Once a final development decision is made with regard to the biorefinery, the LOI will transform into a regular supply contract.

A press release issued by BRD explains that Alkol Biotech adapts plant varieties to grow in colder and drier climates, offering better resistance to pests and diseases, along with higher productivity. The first crop it is developing is EUnergyCane, a sugarcane variety.

BRD is a commercialization partner in Bioforever, a consortium of 14 companies in Europe that aims to build a biorefinery to produce products normally sourced from oil. The consortium includes Avantium, Borregaard, Royal DSM, Green Biologics and MetGen. The consortium is addressing several pre-treatment technologies for the production of intermediates, such as cellulose, C5 and C6 sugars, lignin and humins. It aims to create conversion routes from the intermediates to a variety of building blocks and end products, such as carbon binders, butanol, resin acid, enzymes and furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA), and to demonstrate lignocellulosic value chains at pre-industrial scale for some final products.

While the Bioforever consortium initially targeted the use of wood biomass feedstocks, it is also exploring the use of other lignocellulosic feedstocks. One possibility is the use of cane varieties that have been shown to have high yield, low lignin, no resin and high cellulose content. While canes don’t traditionally grow in Europe, Alkol Biotech has identified EUnergyCane, a naturally occurring cold-resistant variety.  

Under the LOI, Alkol Biotech would provide EUnergyCane from growing regions in Spain, Portugal and eventually the U.K. at a maximum price of €70 ($85.88) per ton.

 “Even more than the obvious sense of achievement that the signing of this LOI brings, there is another which is the realization that Europe is finally waking up to the fact that non-woody biomasses are a competitive option for the production of the chemicals and fuels of the future,” said Al Costa, CEO of Alkol Biotech. “As we approach 2020 with its 7 percent first generation biofuels limitation, as France phases out oil-based transportation in 2040, and when even the inventors of the oil industry themselves (the Rockefellers) formally leave the oil business, the need of suitable feedstocks become more than evident and we are confident we hold the answer.”

“The leadership of Alkol Biotech in non-woody biomasses was pivotal for us to sign this LOI,” said Anton Robek, CEO of BRD. “Not only we have now a reliable and competitive source of biomass, but a quality one, which at the end will mean less costs in enzymes and pre- and post-processing, and thus cost-effective renewable chemical building blocks.”