VALORKON – Valorization of condensate streams from the torrefaction of biomass

So far, agricultural and forestry residues such as hay, straw, wood and plant residues have been used insufficiently. In the VALORKON project, a fermentation-free biorefinery concept is being developed based on the drying and torrefaction process with superheated steam established at IGB. A new process chain is used to selectively separate valuable substances such as acetic acid, furfurals and phenols, which are released in the volatile phase during torrefaction.

Concept of the fermentation-free biorefinery for forestry and agricultural residues (biomass).

Initial situation

With over 100,000 GWh or 370 PJ (Basic data Bioenergy Germany 2017, Fachverband Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V.) in Germany hay, straw, wood and plant residues represent an energy and material potential that has so far been insufficiently exploited. However, in the case of direct combustion or torrefaction according to the state of the art, valuable organic ingredients such as acids (acetic acid, levulinic acid, formic acid), furfurals or aromatic compounds (phenol, vanillin) are not fully utilized in the sense of a biorefinery; the economic efficiency of energy utilization thus remains limited.

Project goal and approach

With VALORKON, a completely new – fermentation-free – biorefinery concept for biomass from agricultural and forestry residues is being developed. A process for drying and torrefaction with superheated steam (SHS) is used, which Fraunhofer IGB has developed together with its project partner Heckmann in previous projects. With rising temperatures in the torrefaction process valuable volatile substances are produced, which can be separated with the excess steam or product moisture. This applies in particular to the torrefaction of lignocellulosic residues.

The innovation in VALORKON is to obtain high-value basic chemicals of high quality (purity > 95 percent) in addition to conditioning the residues to a hydrophobic material. Fraunhofer IGB and Heckmann are therefore developing a process chain with which these valuable substances can be selectively separated from the volatile phase released during torrefaction.

At the same time, the partner Reutlingen University evaluates the technical processes and their value chains on the basis of product life cycles (LCA balance sheet) and environmental influences (LCIA impact assessment) as well as the economic efficiency of the VALORKON biorefinery process chain in comparison to conventional refineries.

Project information

Project title

VALORKON – Valorization of condensate streams from the torrefaction of biomass

 

Project duration

March 2019 – February 2022

 

Project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Stuttgart
  • Heckmann Metall-und Maschinenbau GmbH, Verden
  • Reutlingen University, Reutlingen

Funding

We would like to thank the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for funding the project "VALORKON", promotional reference 031B0664A, in the "Technologieinitiative Bioraffinerien" program.