Industrial processes are energy-intensive. This influences the CO2 footprint, even with sustainable products. This was also the case with Corbion, the largest producer of ‘biobased’ lactic acid, lactates and derivatives in the world. Meanwhile, the company developed an innovative gypsum-free process for the production of lactic acid. ECN advised Corbion on the effects of the process. The outcome? A successful collaboration that led to an improvement in sustainability and a reduction of Corbion’s CO2 footprint.
Chemicals and energy largely determine the OPEX and CO2 footprint of biobased products. ECN and Corbion have therefore joined forces to achieve a common goal: making these production processes greener. Since 2011, we have been working together closely to test technologies for biochemical applications. All current lactic acid processes use lime and sulfuric acid, with gypsum as a byproduct which contributes to the CO2 footprint of the process. What sets this new technology apart from the conventional processes is its clever use of auxiliary materials and the optimal recycling of these materials. This way the production of gypsum is avoided and the CO2 footprint is reduced.
“ECN’s professional expertise, flexibility and focus on results have made an extremely positive impression. With this development, we have taken a step towards achieving our PLA CO2 footprint reduction goal,” says Corporate Scientist André de Haan of Corbion.
Project manager Mariusz Cieplik of ECN has been involved from the beginning and explains that the collaboration with Corbion was intensive, phased and multi-disciplinary. “We started with various small-scale tests and gradually expanded our scope. In our own laboratory in Petten, we conducted many tests in order to get detailed insights into the process and to optimise it for Corbion’s biochemical applications.”
ECN also advised on the integration and the validation in the main process at the demo level. Mariusz: “There are many different disciplines involved, from chemistry to materials and waste science. Both companies possess a huge amount of knowledge that allows them to complement each other well, which is great. Corbion has in-depth knowledge of biochemistry and ECN has expertise in the field of energy-intensive processes.”
Source: ECN, press release, 2014-12-12.