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Turning Waste into new, useful, bio-products. Exergy are proud to be part of the innovative URBIOFIN project.

The URBIOFIN project (“Demonstration of an integrated innovative biorefinery for the transformation of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) into new BioBased products”) has officially started. On June 12th and 13th, IMECAL hosted the kick-off meeting of the innovative URBIOFIN project. The meeting began with an introduction of all the partners and WPs as well the short and long-term actions of the project. During the first day of the meeting, partners were privileged to be given a tour of the IMECAL Perseo® Plant (L’Alcudia, Spain). They were able to see the different equipment involved in the process of bioethanol production from the organic fraction of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), as well as the laboratories and the control system. A networking visit across the City of Arts and Sciences (Valencia) was also developed with networking purposes before holding the official project dinner.

The project is coordinated by IMECAL (Spain) and has received funding from H2020-EU Bio-based Industries Joint Technology Initiative (BBI-JTI) – Project budget €15M, granted €10.9M. The objective of the innovative URBIOFIN project is to demonstrate the techno-economic and environmental viability of the conversion of the organic fraction of MSW into bioproducts (bioethanol, biochemicals, bioplastics and additives) with a high industrial interest. The URBIOFIN Consortium is composed of 16 entities: IMECAL, AINIA, CIEMAT, URBASER, IRIAF, Biomasa Peninsular, University of Valladolid (Spain), Novozymes (Denmark), GI Dynamics and Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands), VISUM (Ireland), NaturePlast, SES (France), Exergy (UK) and NATRUE (Belgium) and Bio-economy Cluster (Germany).

Exergy Ltd is leading the integration of the new Urban Biorefinery approach, along with the different economic, social and environmental analysis to demonstrate the sustainability of the new solutions. During these four years of the project lifecycle, Exergy will be in charge of integrating the three production modules (based in three Spanish locations: L’Alcudia (IMECAL), Zaragoza (Urbaser) and Puertollano (IRIAF-Clamber plant)) and optimise the parameters for a virtual up-scaling of the whole process. Different analysis will be developed in parallel from the information gathered throughout the project.

“There is a huge generation of municipal solid waste in a global context nowadays. According to EU statistics, an average of 477 kg of municipal solid waste per person is generated in the EU28, where a high content of organic fraction is found (circa 50%). Currently, the most sustainable solution to treat these organic fractions contained in the MSW, include composting and anaerobic digestion, however a great fraction is still incinerated or landfilled. URBIOFIN proposes a new urban biorefinery approach to obtain a range of high-value products from the organic fractions of the MSW (after sorting of recyclable components and removal of inerts) which includes the production of bioethylene from bioethanol. Ethylene is an important industrial building block which is mainly made from fossil sources, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) for bioplastic production, biofertilisers (liquid and solid), biogas and biomethane as chemical building block. This approach is in alignment with the Circular Economy Package plan of the EC and the Waste Directive, aiming the project at a zero-waste fraction (after a previous pre-sorting of other fractions from the organic one) and a complete valorisation into potential industrial interest in bio based products. From Exergy, it is a privilege to be part of this demonstration action as it will make us pioneers in the modelling of biorefineries from urban wastes. It is going to be an exciting 4 year challenge for us and our 15 project partners!” – Says Rocio Roldan, Chemical Engineer at Exergy Ltd and work package leader in the integration of the urban biorefinery. “This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 745785”.

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Picture: Rocio Roldan introducing Exergy’s activities