The Biomass Area of CENER (National Renewable Energy Centre of Spain) is convinced of the need to move towards a circular bioeconomy, in which the society is capable of valorising the wastes produced in an integral and cascade mode. On that regard, CENER is running its Biorefinery and Bioenergy Centre (BIO2C), semi-industrial pilot scale test facility able to develop production processes for bioproducts, solid biofuels, advanced liquid or gaseous biofuels, as well as biorefinery concepts integrating different valorization routes, as an intermediate step between laboratory and the industrial scale-up of these technologies. The centre constitutes an integrated trial and demonstration platform designed to develop processes, equipment and specific components, new bio-products or biofuels and bio-refinery concepts working from laboratory up to pilot and pre-commercial scale.

Very flexible in relation to the feedstock and the target bioproducts, CENER holds experience in the valorisation of cereal straw or crop & forest residues, food industry by-products, organic fraction of MSW or sewage sludge, into advanced bifouels, or bio-based products such as bio-based polymers, bioestimulants, biopesticides or antioxidants among others. Indeed, the BIO2C supports the industry in the entire R&D value chain, from low to high TRLs including biomass characterization, lab testing and analysis, product and process development, process upscaling and validation at pilot and demo scales, product batches production and validation, tailor-made research contracts, techno-economic feasibility studies, sustainability and lifecycle analysis.

Bioprocesses upscaling

On top of research starting at low TRLs, one of the key challenges in the process of developing new bioproducts is to overcome the transition period in which a technology under development is envisaged as promising, but too new to validate its commercial potential and, therefore, to attract the necessary capital to be invested in order to achieve its final development and application. Small biotech companies and startups, technology and R&D centers as well as companies demand support in order to ensure the project maturity degree required by the industry, given that their technology needs to be optimized, validated and scaled up in order to penetrate the market.

In order to cover this gap, and thus accompany and give support to the biotech industry, the Biochemical Processes Unit of the BIO2C offers process development services, scaling up and production of first pre-commercial batches. These facilities include pre-treatment, hydrolysis and fermentation units from laboratory scale to several cubic meters devoted to demonstrate the valorization of different biomasses. These type of alliances allow companies to demonstrate their technology in a faster and cheaper way, while at the same time they can count on state-of-the-art facilities, with experienced personnel, prepared and capable of solving the challenges raised by this phase of the R&D. All this complemented of course with ad-hoc advice along the entire project lifecycle, and a final economic and environmental assessment.

With these and other coming initiatives, CENER is developing technology for new biowaste valorization routes both at research & demo scale, for a later industry and market uptake, fostering its commitment in contributing to the Circular Economy Roadmap proposed by the European Commission, and to the wellbeing of the future society.