Futurol Project, France

Futurol Project has come to fruition after eight years of research and development (R&D) aimed at producing and marketing second generation bioethanol processes. The project was initiated in September 2008 in France by a consortium known as Procethol 2G.

The consortium consists of development R&D laboratories IFP Energies Nouvelles, Inra and Lesaffre and ARD. The industrial firms supporting the project include Total, ONF, Tereos and Champagne Céréales.

"Procethol 2G started the construction of a new cellulosic bioethanol pilot plant in September 2008."

The Futorol Project aims to develop laboratory, R&D pilot, prototype and commercial-scale plants for the production of bioethanol. It aims to develop an end-to-end process to produce second generation bioethanol.

The entire cycle is expected to create a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and energy. It also aims to make the bioethanol economical using different available feedstock.

The allocated budget for the project is €74m ($104.5m). About €29.9 (40%) of the cost is being funded by a grant from the French innovation industry promoting agency OSEO. Other public and private partners funding the project include the National Innovation Agency, the National Agricultural Research Institute, CGB, Unigrains and Crédit Agricole du Nord Est.

The Futorol Project bioethanol pilot plant

Procethol 2G started the construction of a new cellulosic bioethanol pilot plant in September 2008. The plant was officially inaugurated in October 2011. It is located at the centre of the ARD industrial Pomacle-Bazancourt biorefinery site near Remis in Marne county, north-eastern France.

The 5,000m2 pilot plant will facilitate development of technologies for producing bioethanol and implement them on an industrial scale. It is the first pilot plant dedicated for second generation bioethanol production in France.

Design of the Procethol 2G consortium's bioethanol pilot plant

The design highlights of the bioethanol pilot plant include a green roof, thermal insulation, efficient water fixtures and lighting and integration of the infrastructure with the agro-industrial site. The plant also has large storage facilities for feedstock.

The plant will have a capacity to produce 180,000 litres of bioethanol a year. It will be used by the research partners of the Futurol Project. The plant currently employs 12 people, which will be increased to 20.

Construction and contractors involved in the new cellulosic bioethanol plant

The pilot plant is built to be a green facility focussed on reprocessing and recycling methods. The building required 5,000t of concrete and steel, 13km of pipelines, 60km of electrical wiring and 14 controllers.

Several steps were taken to reduce the environmental impacts of the plant. They include recovery and management of the wastes, limitation of solid and liquid pollutants, minimal water and energy consumption and an efficient building.

ARD was the supplier of the laboratory equipments for the plant. SNC-Lavalin provided the design and construction management services.

Feedstock details

The second generation Futurol bioethanol pilot plant will use a number of varieties of lignocellulosic biomass feedstock. The raw materials include wood wastes, agricultural and forest residue, green urban waste and whole plants such as miscanthus perennial grass. The bioethanol production chain will be tailored to the geographical and seasonal resources available across the globe.

Process technology

The pilot plant will develop technologies and processes for the development of yeasts and enzymes based on laboratory tests. Compliance of the technologies will be studied on a 1:1000 scale at the pilot facility.

"The Futorol Project aims to develop laboratory, R&D pilot, prototype and commercial-scale plants for the production of bioethanol."

This phase will determine the possibilities of optimising the production, resource flows and reduction of energy consumption. The technology will also be flexible and adaptable with the existing first generation biorefineries.

The processing involves pre-treatment of lignocellulosiques resources, hydrolysis, fermentation, enzymes production and co-products recycling. The lignocellulosic biomass is converted into sugars using enzymatic hydrolysis or biochemical processes.

The sugars are then fermented to produce bioethanol. The biological process does not require any chemical solvents or reactants. The process is sustainable with economic advantages.

Development of yeast strains and enzymes for particular raw materials is a challenge. The Futurol project aims to develop yeast strains and cost-efficient fermentation process for various raw materials. Second-generation bioethanol pilot plants are already operational in the US with commercial scale production in plans. Similar facilities are being planned in Europe, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

Market growth for bioethanol

European Renewable Energy Directive commits to the usage of 10% of renewable biofuels for transportation by 2020. The bioethanol will be used as E10 and E85 blends and distributed across France.

Once the technology is validated, a prototype plant will be installed at Tereos industrial site by 2015. The prototype plant will have a capacity to produce about 3.5 million litres per annum.

The industrial scale unit is expected to be ready by 2016 and will have a capacity of 180 million litres a year. The worldwide industrial commercialisation of the process through technology licensing and yeasts marketing is expected to be achieved between 2016 and 2020.