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Cellulosic ethanol made from agricultural residues

In 2015, the transport sector contributed over one fourth of the GHG emissions in the EU. At the same time this sector registers one of the highest growth rates worldwide, implying a significant impact on future fuel demand and level of CO2 emissions. Furthermore, transport-generated CO2 emissions are considered as one of the main contributors of global warming.

In order to meet international climate commitments and to decarbonize transportation, the EU has recognized the significant role of advanced biofuels. In the EU, a number of directives regulate the use of biofuels, most prominently the “Renewable Energy Directive” (RED). On 30. November 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal for a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (“REDII”) and in June 2018, negotiators from the European Parliament, Council and Commission agreed on a binding renewable energy target of 32% for the EU for 2030. The agreement also sets a target of 14% for renewables in the transport sector by 2030. RED II also sets ambitious targets for advanced biofuels. It creates a mandatory advanced biofuel blending mandate for all EU Member States starting at 0.2% in 2022, increasing to 1% in 2025 and up to 3.5% in 2030.

Cellulosic ethanol, an advanced biofuel made from agricultural residues such as wheat straw and corn stover, could make a substantial contribution to achieve the EU’s objectives and reduce GHG emissions in the EU. As yet, the main challenge has been to develop a production process for cellulosic ethanol that is technologically highly performant and at the same time economically profitable. The innovative sunliquid® technology developed by Clariant has overcome this challenge and meets all the requirements of a technically and economically efficient process for converting agricultural residues into a climate-friendly biofuel. Tapping into the full potential of plants, the sunliquid® process makes use of currently underutilized non-food biomass and converts the difficult to access C5 and C6 sugars contained in this plant material almost entirely into ethanol. Another major advantage of this technology is that up to 95% of CO2 emissions can be saved compared to fossil fuels.

In support of demonstrating the technological feasibility and competitiveness of the sunliquid® process for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues at commercial scale, the EU-funded project SUNLIQUID was initiated. The SUNLIQUID Consortium consists of six international partners with expertise in the fields of speciality chemicals, feedstock supply, life cycle assessment and sustainability, as well as communication strategy. From April 2014 to March 2020, the project receives a contribution of EUR 23 million from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) under Grant Agreement no. 322386.

Main objectives of the project: