A change of tune for chemical industry: VIVALDI turns CO2 emissions into sustainable bio-products

The UAB leads the €7 million VIVALDI project, which will develop a set of breakthrough biotechnologies to transform real off-gases from key bioindustries sectors into novel feedstock for the chemical industry. The project aims to reduce CO2 emissions from bioindustries and at the same time produce organic compounds in a cheaper and more sustainable way.

To reach climate targets, industries need to accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon, resource efficient and circular economy. The chemical sector is one of the most challenging, but also a very promising one, in that context. At the forefront of waste reutilization, bio-based industries (BIs) have the potential to lead the way and create a new and more sustainable sector based on the principle of carbon capture and utilization (CCU) also called CO2 recycling. Based on this circular concept, BI’s will reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, their dependency on fossil carbon import and the exploitation of key resources such as energy, raw materials, land and water.

Starting from June 2021, the EU Horizon 2020 project VIVALDI – innoVative bIo-based chains for CO2 VALorisation as aDded-value organIc acids, will develop a set of breakthrough biotechnologies to transform real off-gases from key BI sectors (Food & Drinks, Pulp & Paper, Bioethanol and Biochemicals) into novel feedstock for the chemical industry. The core of VIVALDI solution is to capture, enrich and transform in a two-steps process (electrochemical and biological) the CO2 captured into four platform organic acids. These resulting compounds have various applications: they can be used in the same site, enhancing the sustainability and circularity of BIs processes and products, or open new business opportunities as building blocks for novel biomaterial (e.g. bioplastics and animal feed). By integrating this concept, industries will “kill two birds with one stone”: not only BI’s carbon emissions will be reduced, but the production of organic compounds that today is very energy-intensive will become cheaper and more sustainable.

“We will develop tailor-made value chains for each type of company. We will boost the circularity of the plants with the use nutrients recovered from the same industries and will pave the way for the emerging CO2-based sector”, states Prof. Albert Guisasola, from the Department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering and VIVALDI’s coordinator.

Replicability will be a key aspect of VIVALDI solutions, allowing other biorefineries and other industrial sectors to become more circular and reduce their environmental impact.

The success of the project will be ensured by a multidisciplinary and international consortium led by the GENOCOV research group of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. The 16 partners range from BIs (SunPine AB, Damm and Bioagra) and technology developers (VITO, UFZ, LEITAT, Processium, Avantium, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences – Vienna, Luleå University of Technology) to end-user (Nutrition Sciences). Novamont will research how to use CO2 along its entire value-chain: from the capture of their CO2 emissions to the conversion of it into new biochemicals. The team is complemented by three knowledge hubs: the sustainability and circularity expert group (BETA from Universitat de Vic), the technology and innovation consultancy (ISLE) and the European Association representing the Carbon Capture and Utilisation community in Europe (CO2 Value Europe).

Two different research groups from UAB will be participating in VIVALDI. On the one side, GENOCOV will be coordinating the project and leading the bioelectrochemical nutrient recovery from industrial reactors and the design of a novel electrobioreactor where electrochemistry meets fermentative processes. On the other side, ENG4BIO will participate in these engineering and up-scaling of these fermentative processes with their broad experience in methylotrophic yeasts.

The consortium is ready to transform biorefineries, envisioning a new CO2-based industrial sector that contributes to largely decrease the carbon footprint of the industry and boost the EU’s economy.

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