Clariant to open a new sunliquid cellulosic ethanol plant in Romania

BusinessSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 4/2018 • 23.11.2018

Clariant to open a new sunliquid cellulosic ethanol plant in Romania

Clariant, a leader in the chemical industry, carried out an official groundbreaking ceremony for the first large-scale commercial sunliquid plant to produce cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues. The flagship technology developed by the company is being used on an industrial scale for the first time.

After more than a decade of research and experimentation, Clariant invested more than 100 million euros in its first sunliquid plant. The project receives funding from the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration and the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.

This technology is innovative not only in Europe but also globally. With this significant investment, Clariant provokes the overall industrial transformation of the region, said Christian Kohlpaintner, a member of Clariant’s Executive Committee. 

The opening ceremony was marked by a traditional award ceremony at Podari, near Craiova, in southwestern Romania. The ceremony was attended by officials of the Romanian government, Swiss Ambassador Urs Herren and a representation of Clariant led by Christian Colpainer, a member of the company’s Executive Committee.

The plant’s realization represents the industry’s largest industrial commitment in this region. Clariant believes it will allow local farmers to launch industrial straw for the first time, which was previously a practically unused agricultural residue. During the construction phase of the new plant several hundred construction workers will be hired by local companies whenever possible. 

At full capacity, the plant is expected to process around 250 000 tonnes of wheat and other cereal straw harvested by local farmers to 50 000 tonnes of cellulose ethanol per year. The by-products generated during the process will be used to generate renewable energy in order to make the installation independent of fossil energy sources. The resulting cellulose ethanol is a biofuel that is virtually carbon neutral, competitive and sustainable worldwide.
The construction of the plant will be good for development in the area of Craiova. It is expected that the new plant will provide about 300 permanent jobs in the supporting branches serving the site as well as in the transportation and storage of the raw material. The plant itself will employ a workforce of between 100 and 120. Clariant plans to recruit its workforce locally, and provide training both in its own laboratories in Planegg near Munich and at the pre-commercial sunliquid plant in Straubing, Bavaria.

The production of cellulosic ethanol is carried out by agricultural residues such as wheat straw and maize trunks, which are supplied by farmers. Straw turns into cellulose sugars. This is followed by fermentation to produce cellulose ethanol. Using plant residues, cellulose ethanol can extend the current production of biofuels to new raw materials and contribute to optimizing the efficiency and sustainability of biofuels. Cellulose sugars also have the potential to serve as a building block for the future production of biological chemicals. In practice, it represents a stable and carbon neutral fuel.

The innovative technological features include pre-treatment without chemicals, integrated production of enzymes for raw materials and processes, and simultaneous fermentation of C5 and C6 sugar provide optimal profitability. Thus sunliquid offers a fully integrated design process built on established technology.