Succinic Esters from Renewable Feedstocks (SERF)

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Plant, Animal and Microbial Science

Abstract

Work Package B1: Year 1-2 (IGER, FA) Production of lactic acid and its derivatives. Lactobacilli will be studied for the production of lactic acid and its derivatives. Currently lactic acid production from sugar compounds is limited by the lack of bio-tolerance which results in poisoning and low yields. New more tolerant strains of lactobacillus have been identified and these will be assessed, alongside existing and new isolates. The work package will optimise lactic acid production using novel and existing strains of lactobacilli. Methods will also seek to enhance purification by utilising different fractions from residual plant biomass. Work Package B2: Year 1-2 (IGER). Production of succinic acid and its derivatives. Rumen microbes have been studied extensively in animal nutrition but have yet to be studied in this proposed context for industrial applications, see annex B technology barriers. IGER will develop this existing know-how for new applications. Several rumen microbes produce succinate as a primary fermentation product. A cocktail of Fibrobacter succinogenes and Ruminococcus flavefaciens will be used for the production of succinic acid and optimised for fermentation. Work Package B3 Year 1-2 (IGER) Production of sugar based compounds. In this work package the use of cell wall degrading enzymes e.g. novel cellulase mixtures, endo xylanases, ferulic acid esterase on unprocessed, mechanically separated and juice/ fibre fractions will be undertaken to identify conversion efficiency vs. level of processing. This assessment will improve the economics by identifying the minimal level of processing for maximal yield of sugar. This step will be integrated with work packages B1 and B2. Development Phase C: Chemical conversions of platform chemicals to chemical feedstocks. Platform molecules developed in work packages B1, B2 and B3 will be converted into chemical feedstocks using a range of conventional and green synthesis routes. Work will assess the process using reaction calorimetry before pilot scale production on a new 50 litre facility at the BioComposites Centre. Industrial partners will then validate products in selected applications (resins, coatings, plastics and cosmetics) Work Package C1 Year 2-3 (BC). Lab scale production of target molecules. Laboratory studies (RC1) will be undertaken to assess the conversion of platform chemicals to chemical feedstocks such as lactic acid to ethyl lactate and acrylic acid. Other conversions of succinic acid to succinic esters, tetrahydrofuran, 1,4 butanediol and pentanediol will also be studied. Work Package C2 Year 2-3. Pilot scale production and product formulation. Where appropriate consortium partners will undertake pilot scale production of chemical feedstocks using the protocols developed in the work packages. Compounds made by the partners will include PLA, polyols, polyol esters, succinate esters.
 
Description Yields, water-soluble carbohydrate production and digestibility of a range of high-sugar grasses through-out the growing season were established and used to identify a suitable grass for future biorefining. Processes for the separation of the sugar rich grass fraction from the remaining fibre were optimised including methods for long term storage of both fractions. Conversion of these sugars to lactic acid using a novel C6 sugar utilising microbe was achieved with high conversion rates at the lab and 500L scales. The downstream extraction and purification of the lactic acid from the fermentation broths was demonstrated, although there remain some technical issues surrounding the removal of excess water from the lactic acid streams generated. The development of fermentation as a synthetic route to valuable platform chemicals was shown to be viable. The production of succinic acid was demonstrated but product levels were poor and need optimising. The project delivered potential new sources of sustainable raw materials for Boots cosmetic brands and also a new network of useful academic and industrial partners for future research.
Exploitation Route Lactic and succinic acid can be used for the production of bioplastics. Lactate esters for use as additives in sun-protection formulations, succinate esters for use as plasticisers in polyurethane formulations, lactate and succinate as green industrial cleaning agents. Grass fibre as an animal feed, or used in the production of acustic /thermal insulation applications and packaging.
Sectors Chemicals,Construction,Creative Economy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The findings from this project have been used to secure additional funding to develop the results towards innovation. Processes initially developed in this project have formed part of 2 patent applications (in the areas of biofuels and platform chemicals and complex sugars as pre-biotics) and a BBSRC IBTI club grant application on surfactants. Work on the fermentation of grass juice to lactic acid has resulted in a TSB funded project looking at lactic acid from grass juice co-fermentation with crab waste for the production of fine chemicals. Members of the initial consortium used the results as a basis for new grant funding from the Welsh Government ERDF programme. This new project 'STARS' is led by a consortium of 5 of the original consortium members along with other industrial partners looking at products from grass biorefining. The microbe identified in the initial project for optimal lactic acid production is the target of a WEFO ERDF funded PhD studentship looking at metabolic engineering of this strain to convert it from a 'wild strain' to a 'process strain'. Outputs from this project also helped in securing a BBSRC UK-USA partner award to look at economic modelling of multi-product feedstocks and provided information for a BBSRC Sparking award looking at the feasibility of setting up a grass biorefinery.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Chemicals
 
Description 2012 International Partnering Award US-UK Biorefining Collaboration
Amount £30,290 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/K021427/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 07/2015
 
Description A Network of Integrated Technologies: Plants to Products
Amount £639,819 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/L013819/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2014 
End 02/2019
 
Description Academia for Business (A4B)-STARS
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Wales 
Department Welsh European Funding Office
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2013 
End 12/2014
 
Description BBSRC / DEFRA LINK - Grassohol
Amount £258,561 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/G016097/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2008 
End 09/2011
 
Description BEACON + Biorefining Center
Amount £8,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Commission 
Department European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2015 
End 12/2019
 
Description BEACON Biorefining Center
Amount £12,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Commission 
Department European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2011 
End 06/2015
 
Description ERDF Sudentship
Amount £196,469 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Wales 
Department Welsh European Funding Office
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2010 
End 06/2015
 
Description Integrated Biorefining Research and Technology Club
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/I005390/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2012 
End 09/2016
 
Description Sparking Impact
Amount £16,682 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2013 
End 03/2014
 
Description Technology Strategy Board - Chitin and lactic acid production crab shell waste
Amount £160,000 (GBP)
Funding ID TS/L006790/1 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 12/2014
 
Title Grassohol Model 
Description Using data from research with input from industrial partners, we have developed a model to predict the environmental and economic potential of setting up a grass based biorefinery primary based on the production of bio-ethanol 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We have used aspects of this model in other projects in the area of grass biorefining to determine viability of different scenarios 
 
Description Crab industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation and disicussion on the possibility and practicalities of utilisation crab shells for biorefining.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation to farmers group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation to a farming group on the potential use of grasslands for the production of energy, biofuels and platform chemicals including potential existing and developing supply chains.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015