EU invests €20m into sugar beet biorefinery for carbon neutral organic acids

8 Jul 2020

To reduce its reliance on petroleum-based chemicals in the food and agricultural industries, the European Commission and the public-private Bio Based Industry Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) are investing €20 million in the construction of a sugar beet biorefinery in northeastern France to produce acidic biomolecules that can be used in food and fragrances. The project is expected to be completed by 2022.

Thanks to fermentation technology developed over the past decade by Afyren, sugar beet waste streams, which are the fibrous materials that remain after sugar is extracted, can be transformed into high-value products, such as microcellulose fibres (MCF), arabinose (Ara) and galacturonic acid (GalA). According to a report from BBI JU, the majority of sugar beet waste streams are used as animal feed, bio-fertilizer or it is used for creating green fuel gas.

EU invests €20m into sugar beet biorefinery for carbon neutral organic acids
Image via FOODISM360 on Unsplash

With the new extraction techniques developed by Afyren, the beet remnants can now find their way into a wide variety of food and flavor applications in the form of chemical building blocks, according to a report by the European Commission.

However, Afyren will not be the only company to benefit from this €20 million biorefinery investment. AgFunder News reported that the biorefinery will be used by a coalition of companies, including Celanese Europe, Firmenich, IAR — le Pôle de Bioéconomie français — Kemin Europe, Omya International, PNO Consultants. The project will be operated by the Afyren affiliate company Afyren NEOXY, which is an entity that co-invested with SPI fund from Bpifrance.

The plant itself will be built in a de-industrialized sector of northeastern France and is expected to generate at least 50 jobs and an additional 200 manufacturing, engineering and construction jobs from secondary effects.

The European Union hopes to use this project to beat the system and identify a cost-effective alternative to the petroleum-based products that currently power the production lines of the FMCG and agriculture sectors. To make this hope a reality, the beet biorefinery will additionally serve as a test case to identify the possibility of expanding such a technology further into Europe or other parts of the world.

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