Progress & Milestones
Site selection completed
After having analysed the assets of around 20 regions in Eastern Europe in order to identify the most suitable site for building the new plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol, Clariant announced on October 31, 2017 that the southwestern part of Romania has been chosen. The requirements for the site were manifold. It included ample feedstock availability and a good transport and energy infrastructure.
The Basic Design for the cellulosic ethanol plant was elaborated and has been finalized for the selected site in southwest Romania. This included an in-depth evaluation of the existing site infrastructure (rail line, road access, gas & electricity & water supply), as well as the development of the plant layout while taking into account the local boundary conditions.
Groundbreaking event held
On 12 September 2018, Clariant officially broke ground for its first large-scale commercial sunliquid® plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol made from agricultural residues in Podari (Romania). The project will have an investment volume of over EUR 100 million and will receive EUR 40 million funding from the European Union. The construction of the plant will provide a wide range of benefits for this rural region. It will allow local farmers to establish an additional stream of income by selling currently underutilized straw to the plant. During the construction phase of the new plant, several hundred workers will be employed from locally based companies wherever possible.
Construction phase started
With the start of the construction, Clariant’s project in Podari has reached an important milestone. On a 98,000 sqm large area, where the new plant is currently being built, Clariant is observing the highest technological standards that will have a significant positive impact on safety for public health and the environment. Additionally, Clariant is paying close attention to the social and economic development of this area. Clariant has engaged a Romanian civil construction company, and the construction works will be involving a team of about 800 workers.
Partnership network established with farmers in Oltenia region
To ensure a stable feedstock supply for the sunliquid® plant, Clariant’s main objective is to build long-term relationships with farmers in the Oltenia region (southwest Romania). Since 2017, a dedicated feedstock crew has established long-term contracts with over 200 farmers to acquire agricultural residues for the plant. With these partnership contracts concluded so far, Clariant has already secured the majority of the raw material needed for the sunliquid® plant in Podari. In 2018 over 3 000 tons of wheat straw were harvested. In 2019, over 20 000 tons of straw were harvested in order to test and adjust supply chain performance. The trials were centered on efficient straw collection, transportation, and storage. The ramp-up of the supply chain will continue to work toward more than 250 000 tons for full-scale plant capacity. As of 2019, a digital application that supports supply chain operations with regard to coordinating, managing, and monitoring straw harvest operations has been established. In addition, network systems for straw storage and just-in-time delivery were implemented.
Licensing the sunliquid® technology continues
Clariant licenses its sunliquid® technology platform globally. So far, five license agreements have been executed with renowned industry players in Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and China. The first license agreement on Clariant’s innovative sunliquid® technology was signed in 2017. This continued interest is a major step towards the commercialization of the sunliquid® technology for advanced biofuels on a global scale.
Construction of first commercial sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol plant completed
On 15th, October 2021, the LIGNOFLAG project reached its most significant milestone so far: the construction of the world’s first full-scale commercial sunliquid® plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues was successfully finished. The plant will process approximately 250,000 tons of straw into 50,000 tons of cellulosic ethanol per year.
The construction in Podari, in the southwest of Romania, began in late 2019 and took two years as planned. Despite the challenging pandemic situation, not a single day was lost to COVID-19, while fully complying with all pandemic precaution measures. The plant also holds a strong safety record as it was built without any accident on the construction site.
The plant in Podari, Dolj county, is built on a 10-hectare area on which construction was initiated in 2019 with up to 800 workers onsite. Contracts with more than 300 local farmers have been signed to ensure the supply of the necessary feedstock. The production site represents a significant contribution to the region’s local employment and economic growth potential.
First commercial sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol produced at plant in Podari
After construction completion in October 2021, the plant in Podari underwent a thorough commissioning process where the operations team checked the functionality of the plant. After successful trial operations, production at the sunliquid® plant officially started on 14th June 2022 with the first drop of cellulosic ethanol produced. The entire offtake is contracted with a multi-year agreement to Shell, a leading global energy company.
The cellulosic ethanol produced at this plant can be applied as a drop-in solution for fuel blending but also offers further downstream application opportunities for sustainable aviation fuel and bio-based chemicals.
The production start at this first sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol plant proves the commercial viability of Clariant’s innovative technology and with that supports the licensing business strategy.