Veni Vidi Veridi

Publieke samenvatting / Public summary

Itaconic acid is considered as interesting biobased building block, close to a drop in molecule, for e.g. paints, composites and plexiglass. Business case calculations show that large scale market introduction is only possible if cheaper feedstocks can be used. End users do not appreciate competition with food and other land uses.
This project will show that with a game changing micro-organism novel cheaper feedstocks can be used compared with current production which is based on highly pure and expensive first generation feedstock and non-optimised micro-organism. Thus create an economically but as well sustainable value chain for itaconic acid for large volume applications. The Green Pellet concept of Viride and the Betaprocess of DSD will be used to produce sugars from wheat pallets and whole sugar beet. DDNA developed a potential game changer with A.niger, a robust fungal production host, the fungus eats all sugars, is not hindered by inhibitors has no production lag phase and shows promising yields on lignocellulosic sugars. The itaconic acid will be input for DSM, Lucite, Worlee Chemie, Itaconix (with e.g. parners Croda and AkzoNobel) and others for higher value chemicals.

The fact that second generation is not a commodity yet hinders large scale use in The Netherlands but as well outside the Netherlands. As well purification of second generation increases costs to levels ruining business cases. DDNA tested at lab scale wheat straw pellets and several other dirty feedstocks – showing highly promiging results with its genetically modified organism. The partners aim to develop the value chain in the Netherlands as there is a large amount of wheat straw available and a sugar beet chain we can step into, as well a number of potential end users are available in this region. The research in this project will show that a value chain on cheaper substitutes is possible.
The goal of this project is to develop second generation sugars production processes using wheat straw and/or whole sugar beet and convert it into IA by converting a highly productive and robust and thus potential game changing citric acid Aspergillus niger fungal micro-organism.

Korte omschrijving
Activity 1: production and optimization pellets from wheat straw by an innovative combination of pre-treatment and pelletisation technology (Viride).
Activity 2: small production of fermentable whole sugar beets (DSD)
Activity 3: hydrolysis of the pellets and whole sugar beet liquid into glucose, arabinose and xylose, optimize the hydrolysis to fit to the fermentation in terms of cost and energy reduction (DDNA).
Activity 4: genetic optimisation of the micro-organism for these substrates using a robust Aspergillus niger fungi. (DDNA)
Activity 5: fermentation tests at 5L scale mimicking large scale, using industrial process conditions (DDNA)
Activity 6: downstream processing of itaconic acid (TU Delft)
Activity 7: further refining business case with parameters yield, productivity, titer, feedstock costs, electricity usage and costs, DSP costs and strategy to use all side streams (minerals, lignin, waste water, heat (TU Delft).
Application test are not part of this project, as this has been already extensively tested (and patented) by DSM, Worlee Chemie, Lucite, Itaconix. For a proof see Annex I with market validation and Annex II showing results of application tests.

The result will be a proof of principle of a second generation value chain of an important biochemical. The biochemical was listed in the top 12 of a study of the Department of Energy, as it is practically a drop-in chemical for a number of applications. With this result the partners will be able to attract venture capital to further develop and scale the process. The longer term ambition is to realise a new fermentation plant in the Netherlands sources with whole sugar beet and/or wheat straw pallets or other second generation feedstock.