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May 2024

Special Focus: Biofuels, Alternative/Renewable Fuels

Connecting the dots to bankability with low-carbon bio-hubs for sustainable fuels and chemicals

The transportation fuel and chemicals sectors are facing multiple urgent challenges. They must quickly reduce their dependence on petroleum resources with cost-competitive solutions while also addressing concerns such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and decarbonization.

The transportation fuel and chemicals sectors are facing multiple urgent challenges. They must quickly reduce their dependence on petroleum resources with cost-competitive solutions while also addressing concerns such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and decarbonization. The authors’ company’s technologya has emerged as a solution that monetizes a wide range of biomass residues. This multi-purpose bio-hub not only captures carbon in biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) form, but it also produces renewable products such as advanced ethanol, bio-methane and green electricity. It presents a compelling business opportunity for investors and stakeholders committed to industry decarbonization. The technologya has overcome significant technical barriers, paving the way for projects ready for immediate commercial deployment, regardless of the end goal.

Setting new standards in the fuel and energy sectors 

As industrial players are facing mounting pressure to adapt their technologies and processes to comply with new environmental regulations, the authors' company’s technologya offers a transformative solution. In the U.S., the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates a certain volume of renewable fuel, such as conventional and advanced biofuels, in transportation fuel, reaching 36 Bgal by 2022. Under the RFS program, fuel categories must demonstrate a lifecycle GHG reduction compared to the petroleum fuels they replace.

In Europe, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) was adopted in 2009 to deliver a minimum 20% share of renewable energy in the EU’s total energy consumption by 2020. In 2018, RED II increased this share to 32%; the latest revision, RED III, aims for a 42.5% minimum share of renewable energy consumption in all sectors by 2030.

An integrated bio-hub for diverse biofuels 

The authors’ company’s technology, created thanks to the Group’s unique expertise in converting biomass into biogenic products, is designed to tackle these challenges. This multi-purpose bio-hub monetizes a wide range of biomass residues and delivers a range of renewable products suitable for fuel and chemical applications alike.

Developed by Procéthol 2G and its associates (industrial partners, R&D partners, financial partners), notably IFP Energies Nouvelles (IFPEN), the technologya enables industrial players in the petrochemical and transportation fuel sectors to reduce their GHG emissions by up to 90% (as per internal evaluation) and potentially become carbon-negative when using biogenic COfor storage or further conversion.

An integrated solution based on targeted expertise 

The technologya is streamlined and integrated, encompassing biomass feedstock pretreatment, efficient biocatalyst production and enzymatic hydrolysis, as well as high-yield fermentation, distillation and drying to meet required specifications. A simplified process flow diagram is shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 1. A simplified process flow diagram of the authors’ company’s technology<sup>a</sup>.
FIG. 1. A simplified process flow diagram of the authors’ company’s technology<sup>a</sup>.



Proven and de-risked biomass pretreatment 

The technological advancements in this important sector have been transformative. The transition from pilot to commercial-scale use of the technologya has been achieved through the establishment and operation of an industrial-scale demonstration plant in France. The authors’ company has successfully shown the consistent operation of this pivotal section, providing investors and expert consultants with comprehensive technical and operational data. Lessons learned, feedback received and extensive data accumulated during the construction and operation of this plant have all been incorporated into a commercial design, offering a de-risked model for future commercial plants.

The industrial pretreatment of the technologya benefits from a unique system, ensuring high efficiency and flexibility in utilizing agricultural residues, forestry residues and energy crops. This innovative system enables steady-state operation, preventing early shutdowns and maximizing plant uptime. Consequently, the plant achieves high product yields, essential for rapid investment recovery. The resulting financial indicators are more attractive to investors, who perceive business cases based on the technologya as worth financing, with lower risk rates compared to other state-of-the-art technologies.

Reliable and efficient enzyme biocatalyst production 

A similar strategic approach has been adopted for the technology’s enzyme production. The risks associated with scaling up from pilot to commercial scale have been mitigated through the operation of an industrial-scale demonstration plant in France. The authors’ company has effectively demonstrated the operation of this critical component, providing clear visibility for investors and experts. All key aspects related to enzyme production have been clarified during operations and integrated into a commercial design for future plants.

The technologya relies on proprietary, high-efficiency enzymes developed by the company’s parent company, IFPEN. Onsite production of these biocatalysts within the plant has proven to be the most cost-effective strategy. This onsite model maximizes the internal rate of return (IRR) and net present value of the business case, benefiting from the seamless integration between biocatalyst production and other process sections of the plant. Consequently, investors will notice significant improvements in the business case driven by lower enzyme costs and reduced carbon intensity of operations, which are crucial to meet the minimum requirements for final investment decisions (FIDs).

Moreover, the business case gains robustness and simplicity. Robustness is ensured as plant operations are shielded against price volatility from external enzyme suppliers; while simplicity is achieved as enzyme supply logistics remain under control, independent of uncertain external shipping or complex truck logistics, ensuring smooth operations year-round.

Resilient and flexible technology with the widest biomass portfolio 

Efforts related to biomass pretreatment have resulted in the technologya becoming a high-efficiency means to convert a wide range of biomass feedstocks. It is the only technology that has incorporated wood residues, agricultural waste and energy crops at the heart of its development.

The technologya enables the development of business cases built on a multi-feedstock supply plan, accommodating variability in composition while utilizing the same configuration and equipment within a single train. This streamlined approach facilitates plant operation through changes in biomass quality and optimizes plant operation when adapting production plans to market-driven variations in biomass types.

As a result, the business case becomes more robust and adaptable, leveraging locally available resources and seizing opportunities presented by different feedstocks. This resilience is attractive to investors and operators considering involvement in long-term projects spanning several decades, where local and regional conditions will inevitably evolve over time, encompassing changes in climate, politics, markets and social dynamics.

More reliable contamination management in the fermentation process 

In the realm of fermentation plant operations, the contamination by foreign microorganisms, which disrupt the efficiency of fermentation production, is a crucial consideration. Investors, experts and stakeholders involved in project development by the authors’ company acknowledge the proactive approach taken by the technologya to mitigate this issue and reduce it to an acceptable level for commercial viability.

The technologya effectively manages contamination through a combination of integrated features throughout the process. First, the unique pretreatment step produces stabilized and sterile material, creating an environment that is highly inhospitable to foreign microorganisms. This significantly simplifies downstream process operations by reducing the risk of contamination.

Secondly, the hydrolysis and fermentation steps are configured in a distinctive arrangement that leverages an innovative synergy between biocatalysts and process. This setup minimizes susceptibility to contamination by operating under mild conditions and maintaining low sugar concentrations throughout fermentation.

By reducing contamination in fermenters, productivity increases along with the on-duty service factor, resulting in a more robust business case with higher product offtake rates. This reliability in production planning ensures a profitable business case and consistent cash flow projections.

Unique and cost-effective hydrolysis and fermentation configuration 

The solutiona employs a unique “one-pot” process that facilitates the simultaneous enzymatic hydrolysis of biomass and co-fermentation of C5 and C6 sugars. This configuration capitalizes on a unique synergy between biocatalysts and processes, minimizing costs by using fewer fermenters and associated equipment compared to technologies that complete hydrolysis and fermentation separately. The mild operating conditions required by the process contribute to a further cost reduction in operational expenses.

Furthermore, the “one-pot” approach streamlines the process, reducing the risk of contamination, as previously discussed. The technologya offers a hydrolysis and fermentation core process that is simpler, easier to operate, and has lower capital (CAPEX) and operational expenses (OPEX), leading to higher production margins and greater financial value for any project.

Value proposition through integration with other solutions 

Within the authors’ company’s comprehensive portfolio of solutions, the technologya has emerged as a truly integrated bio-hub. This technologya is an example of how the Group is strategically broadening its scope, fostering synergies and minimizing integration costs by offering many single-source solutions.

First, the company offers a thorough and integrated stillage valorization solution. Stillage, a byproduct of the distillation section (shown in FIG. 1), can be transformed into an energy source, a process the company has been involved in since its 2022 acquisition of the company HydroThane Holding BV. Specializing in biological anaerobic water treatment, solid waste digestion and biogas treatment, HydroThane’s expertise complements the authors’ company’s biogas purification offer from its partner Arol Energy. The ongoing integration of HydroThane and Arol Energy technologies with the technologya discussed here is designed to present an advanced stillage-to-biomethane solution.

Moreover, the authors’ company boasts an extensive portfolio of technologies to enhance the advanced ethanol produced with the technologya. Pioneering the alcohol-to-jet pathway with a technology suiteb, the author’s company is also advancing in olefins bio-sourcing through its solutionc for alcohol-to-olefins, developed in partnership with TotalEnergies and IFPEN. The authors’ company is anticipating the future by working on an alcohol-to-butadiene technologyd. This is the result of a partnership with Michelin and IFPEN to offer decarbonized solutions for the rubber industry.

The authors’ company also leverages the biogenic CO2 produced by the proprietary processa. As an energy transition licensor, the company deploys its eFuels solution, which relies on a suite of technologies based on its Fischer-Tropsch technologye. As carbon prices increase due to new regulations, biogenic CO2 is becoming an extremely valuable raw material. The company is exploring its potential not only as a carbon capture stream but also as a feedstock for eFuel hubs. This strategic move aims to monetize the value of each biogenic CO2 stream produced by the technologya.

Additionally, by integrating biomass deconstruction steps from the technologya, onsite enzyme production, and additional separation and purification operations, obtaining C5 and C6 sugar-rich streams becomes feasible. This access to sugar platforms becomes a critical pathway for producing chemicals, including intermediates for drop-in molecules and new sustainable chemicals and plastics.

These endeavors culminate in the creation of a versatile bio-hub with the technologya at its core, capable of producing various high-value products tailored to market demands and the preferences of investors and operators. The inclusion of the technology’s products in alternative low-carbon derivatives ensures long-term demand forecast, further de-risking projects.

Key projects under development are detailed below.

Bringing an advanced ethanol bio-hub to France 

The authors’ company is leading a consortium of companies creating the first advanced ethanol bio-hub in France, situated in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. This area holds significant potential for utilizing wood and corn residues. Progress on the new aircraft concepts research (NACRE) project has included conducting a feasibility study, qualifying biomass, securing government funding, selecting a site and establishing a special purpose vehicle company to drive the project forward.

So far, the Group has begun the permitting work and conducted several testing campaigns lasting several months in the pre-commercial plant. These tests have reproduced actual production conditions representative of the factory.

At the same time, the company launched its basic engineering package in February 2024 as a crucial step in the project’s progression. Moving forward, this project will also integrate a stillage valorization solution based on HydroThane technology, aiming to provide a fully integrated end-to-end solution.

Mitigating California wildfires through an advanced ethanol bio-hub 

The authors’ company is also collaborating with Allotrope Cellulosic Development Co. LLC, a project development company in California (U.S.) to capitalize on the region’s vast forestry potential and develop an advanced ethanol bio-hub in the state. The project will utilize local Californian forest thinning materials and agricultural residues as feedstocks, reducing the risk of wildfires, a critical challenge of the region in recent years.

Completed feasibility study and due diligence phases, along with testing in the pre-commercial technologya plant, have paved the way for investors. This way, the project can develop a more detailed engineering package and increase the level of accuracy on project costs. A new agreement between the authors’ company, Allotrope and Sumitomo Corp. of Americas aims to build upon this work and develop a joint study for a commercial plant producing cellulosic bioethanol based on the technologya discussed here. Upon successful completion of this phase, the project will advance to the next level and play a pivotal role in securing financial capital for the front-end loading phase 3.

Leveraging the potential of biomass surrounding the Egyptian pyramids 

The company is collaborating with the Egyptian Company for Solid Waste Recycling (ECARU) and Qalaa Holdings to conduct technical and economic studies for a groundbreaking project focused on advanced bioethanol and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production. This initiative marks the first of its kind in Egypt. With its track record of producing various products from agricultural waste and its commitment to managing and recycling 3.5 MMt of agricultural waste, ECARU aligns with Egypt’s environmental preservation goals and efforts to combat climate change.

The project will unfold in two phases and utilize two of the company’s technologies: the first phase will involve advanced bioethanol productiona, while the second phase will focus on SAF productionb. The project’s studies are estimated to span about 7 mos, with the intention of exporting second-generation biofuel production, in line with Egypt’s strategy to optimize the use of various waste types, promote waste recycling and stimulate sustainable economic growth.

Toward next-generation renewable chemicals 

The technologya opens new avenues for exploring the bio-based economy. Building on the extensive experience acquired, the technologya can now be optimized to truly become a bio-based chemicals platform and tackle second-generation sugar production. This access to sugar platforms is a strategic pathway for producing chemicals, including intermediates for drop-in molecules and new sustainable chemicals and plastics. By harnessing the technologya and associated technologies, there is a wealth of potential for innovation in the field of renewable chemicals (FIG. 2).

FIG. 2. Bio-based chemicals accessible from the proprietary technology&lt;sup&gt;a&lt;/sup&gt;.
FIG. 2. Bio-based chemicals accessible from the proprietary technology<sup>a</sup>.


The technologya discussed here is a versatile multi-purpose bio-hub designed to address various challenges associated with carbon capture and renewable energy production. By capturing carbon in biogenic CO2 form, it offers a sustainable solution while generating a range of renewable products, including advanced ethanol, bio-methane and green electricity.

Having overcome historical technical barriers, the technology has garnered significant positive feedback from industry experts worldwide. Its unique de-risking strategy, coupled with the company’s established industrial licensing track record, positions the technology as a reliable solution for tackling decarbonization challenges and facilitating the energy transition.

The current pipeline of commercial projects under development underscores the perception of the technologya as a bankable process with distinctive features, making it a commercial project worth financing and with reduced risk. This perception has led investors and stakeholders to view it as a viable commercial project worthy of financing. As these projects gradually come to fruition, they lay the groundwork for a new market, attracting further interest and marking the beginning of a new era of socially responsible investments. HP


a Axens’ Futurol®

b Axens’ Jetanol™

c Axens’ Atol®

Axens’ Alcohol-To-Butadiene (also known as project BioButterfly)

e Axens’ Gasel® Fischer-Tropsch technology

The Authors

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