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German pilot plant to develop Swiss “biofuel of the future”

Clariant will advance eco-friendly sunliquid tech ready for industry use

A biofuel plant has been opened to trial sunliquid tech
A biofuel plant has been opened to trial sunliquid tech

A Swiss chemical company has opened a biofuel pilot plant to develop its biofuel technology. Muttenz-based Clariant will trial its sunliquid technology at the plant in Straubing, Germany. Clariant has named its solution the “biofuel of the future”, claiming it cuts CO2 emissions by 95 per cent without competing with food production.

The plant will prepare the sunliquid process for industrial-scale use, trialling the technology in all steps necessary for industrial production. The sunliquid process is a biotechnological method that turns plant waste products such as grain straw and corn straw into second-generation cellulose ethanol. Using plant waste, such as straw, eliminates the “food or fuel issue”.

Bavarian economics minister Martin Zeil, said: “From a global perspective, there’s no ‘food or fuel’ issue when plant waste is recycled.”

The project will produce 1000 tonnes of ethanol for every 4500 tonnes of wheat based straw. Studies show that Germany potentially has around 22 million tonnes of straw that could be used for energy production without compromising essential soil regeneration. Clariant says that this would be sufficient to cover around 25 per cent of Germany’s current gasoline requirements.

Professor Andre Koltermann, head of Clariant’s biotech and renewables centre, said: “We have been developing the sunliquid technology since 2006 and have been testing the method on a pilot scale since 2009. The results we obtain in Straubing will enable us to plan industrial production plants efficiently and economically, and ultimately to realise such plants in cooperation with partners.”