Development of an integrated biorefinery for processing chitin rich biowaste to specialty and fine chemicals
The fishing industry in the EU and elsewhere produces an increasing mass of negative value crustacean shell waste (>6 MTPA), whose current disposal in landfills results in significant costs and risks to human health as well as to the environment. While in Asia small amounts of shrimp waste are processed to chitosan, the high CaCO3 content of EU crab shell waste has prevented cost effective conversion to value adding products. The project will develop an integrated biorefinery platform transforming the chemical constituents of EU, African and Asian crustacean shell waste into “drop-in” and novel chemical intermediates to produce high value, high performance bio-based polymers at high atom efficiencies. The innovative process comprises pretreatment steps to facilitate downstream enzymatic depolymerisation and conversion of sugars into chemical building blocks utilizing enzymatic and whole-cell biocatalysis routes. Biocatalyst development requires application of genomics techniques in combination with green-chemical and process-engineering know-how. Sustainable purification technologies will enable integration of monomers into current industrial polymerization processes. Biowaste streams will be valorised for the production of bioenergy to improve process efficiency and greenhouse gas footprint. The environmental impact of the process chain will be evaluated by a cradle-to-product life cycle analysis. Process scale-up will be linked with modelling and optimization studies to demonstrate economic viability. The consortium of 5 academic, 4 SME and 2 large industrial partners has the technical and management expertise to rapidly transfer laboratory scale results into novel industrial product lines at an accelerated pace. Key consortium members are from 5 different EU and 2 associated ICP states, which allows for strategic technology transfer from high- to low-tech driven countries, fostering the development of sustainable economies in the EU and beyond.