The so-called "steam explosion technology" is an ecological as well as economical process for the sustainable extraction of cellulose fibers from regional annual plants such as straw. This type of fiber extraction produces a liquid phase as a by-product, which offers fast and effective access to high-quality raw materials for biorefineries. The conversion takes place completely without chemicals. It thus offers the best conditions for biotechnological follow-up processes with bacteria, yeasts and fungi, with the help of which the feedstocks can be specifically processed into high-quality special chemicals with increased added value.
The Institute for Microbiology (IMB), the Institute for Biological Process Engineering (IBVT) and the Institute for Plastics Technology (IKT) at the University of Stuttgart, together with the companies Fibers365 GmbH, Südpack Verpackungen GmbH & Co. KG and Kneipp GmbH want to use this liquid phase as a starting material for the production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and thus generate a regionally available source of bioplastics. As part of the funding from the Bioeconomy Innovation and Investment Programme for Rural Areas (BIPL BW) of the Ministry of Food, Rural Areas and Consumer Protection, a complete value chain is to be established under the keyword "renewable carbon", which will allow complete and thus economic processing and use of annual biomasses.
Fibers365 GmbH ist für ihr patentiertes Verfahren zur CO2 neutralen Erzeugung von Zellulose Fasern und Biopolymeren für den Fiber Excellence Award des Nova Instituts nominiert.
Der in Lenningen ansässige Start UpFibers365 GmbH steht nach der Nominierung als Finalist des Most Sustainable Packaging Award von Packaging Europe im September 2021 und der Aufnahme in die Next Gen Pulp Solutions von Canopy nun auch auf der Liste der ausgewählten Finalisten für den „Cellulose Fiber Innovation Award 2022“ für die CO2 negative, chemiefreie Herstellung von Zellulose-Fasern und Biopolymeren aus Stroh und anderen einjährigen Biomassen. Der Preis wird auf der International Conference on Cellulose Fibres 2022 am 2. und 3. Februar, organisiert vom Nova Institut, Köln, vergeben.
Das vormalige Scheufelen-Team um Stefan Radlmayr, Gründer Silphie Paper, Fibers365 und Non Woven365, zeichnete bereits 2017 für die erfolgreiche industrielle, mehrfach preisgekrönte Markteinführung von Graspapier sowie 2021 für die Silphiepapier Entwicklung verantwortlich.
Basierend auf dem patentierten Steam Explosion Aufschlussverfahren des österreichischen Anlagenbauers AGRES Systems sind schon insgesamt 6 Steam Fiber Anlagen mit einer Verarbeitungskapazität von 60.000 Jahrestonnen in West- und Osteuropa in den Auftragsbüchern.
Der dezentrale, energieautarke, chemiefreie und farmnahe Aufschluss von jährlich nachwachsenden Biomassen soll neben Faserstoffen für die Papier.-, Vlies.- Faserguss und Textilindustrie auch weitere nicht fasrige Rohstoffe, etwa chemiefrei aufgeschlossenes Lignin sowie Ausgangsmaterialien für PLA bzw. PHB (Bio-Kunststoffe) wettbewerbsfähig machen.
Hermann Dauser, CTO Fibers365 und Agres Systems sieht insbesondere in der Multifunktionalität der eingesetzten Technologie grosse Chancen, um auch regional nur in begrenzten Mengen (5000 bis 30000 Tonnen/Jahr) verfügbare einjährige Biomassen einer konkurrenzfähigen, industriellen Verwertung zugänglich machen zu können.
„Darüber hinaus erschließen wir mit unserem chemiefreien Konzept die Rohstoffe der Biomassen aber auch ohne dabei die regionale Zirkularität der Nährstoffkreisläufe der zu Grunde liegenden Pflanzen und Böden aus den Augen zu verlieren. Ein zentraler Gesichtspunkt für die Nachhaltigkeit von „renewable carbon“ nach dem Fibers365 Konzept.“
The Fibers365 concept is a unique, state of the art process to provide functional, carbon negative, competitive non-wood virgin fibers for paper and packaging purposes as well as high value side streams. The fibers are recovered from the stems of annual food plants such as straw by a chemical-free, regional and decentralized pulping process.
fibers365 are just one step further in an existing, cascading agricultural value creation after food production and allow not only fiber production, but also the separation of sugars, lignin, organic acids and minerals as feedstock for renewable bio energy as well as for biophenols, biopolymers and fertilizers.
The use of annual plant fiber pulps for paper & packaging instead of wood based fibers – never mind fossil resources - accelerates the recapture of biogenic CO2 emissions significantly. All pulped natural fibers – and this is true for virgin fiber as well as recycled fiber - will release CO2 in proportion to their original carbon content during their initial processing and final consumption. Processing typically includes partial incineration for electrical power and heat generation. Final consumption includes incineration or composting, independently of the frequency of reuse in recycling loops (on average 5 to 7 times).
In the case of annual plants, such CO2 emissions are recaptured within 12 months from their production date, offering “instant”, yearly compensation of corresponding emissions. Compared to this, packaging material from fossile resources are never compensated! And even a choice of wood pulp comes at a significant ecological short term cost: recapturing biogenic emissions from wood biomass will take from 7 years (in the tropics) up to at least 60 years (in continental climates), not even considering other aspects like bio diversity loss, soil depletion, long distance transports using fossil fuel sources and other negative aspects of monoculture plantations often associated with virgin wood fiber.
Straw - as a prominent example for a regional and economical feedstock for annual fibers - is a byproduct of food production and widely available (e.g., in Germany approximately 15 million tons). However, it is typically commercialized only in small percentages (e.g., in Germany only about 17 % of total volume). The main reason for this is of course the importance of such residual wastes for soil fertility. Other negative aspects are supply chain issues like storage, light weight environmental and economical transport cost, seasonality and fragmentation of supply. In order to make biomass from annual plants truly competitive (from an economical as well as an environmental reference frame), it is necessary to address these points. The fibers365 concept achieves exactly that.
Most importantly, we increase the availability of raw material in the markets by making the commercial supply of straw also much more palatable to farmers. We achieve this by
decentralizing production on farm (biogas plant) level with automated, modular technology,
chemical free, non-polluting, steam explosion processing,
allowing a managed return of purely biological residuals after fiber, bioenergy and side fraction extraction to the original fields with minimal logistical effort, thereby closing the nutrient soil fertility loop
permitting regional value creation in partnership with agricultural producers in an alignment of interests
avoiding the supply chain, CAPEX and OPEX issues of competing, large scale industrial annual biomass plants
minimal environmental impact of processing.
A direct comparison illustrates the carbon negative balance of fibers365 regarding Co2 within a one year regrowth period. A ton of processed, steam exploded virgin fibers365 requires approximately 925 kWh* heat and electrical energy per ton final product. The remaining substrate fraction of the biomass feedstock allows the production of 1160 kWh bioenergy*, producing more energy than required in the process. (*proofed and demonstrable through existing pilot plant)
In comparison, wood pulp requires on average at least 3750 kWh* per ton of virgin wood pulp, only approximately 3120 kWh of which come from intrinsic, long term biogenic energy sources (through incineration of biomass and not considering consumed process chemicals), requiring still on average 17 % of extrinsic, carbon positive energy. Recycled pulp requires on average 444 kWh* per ton, mostly from extrinsic, carbon positive energy sources and not considering a “fair share” of the initial processing emissions of virgin fiber. (“CO2-Verminderung im Papiergewerbe“ by ffe gmbh, 2018)
Finally, fibers365 are not only advantageous from an environmental and energy perspective. Due to the cascade utilization of annual biomass for various end uses (food, fiber, bioenergy, biopolymers, fertilizers) and relevant contribution margins, full production economical costs (CAPEX, OPEX) of processed fibers365 are already competitive to virgin fiber wood pulp, permitting to hope for wide- spread adaption of the Fibers365 concept even in a market defined by low prices for recycled fibers.
The modular Fibers365 process technology has already been commercialized and proofed in a number of locations. Good paper qualities from Fibers365 paper are being produced in an industrial scale in a combination with up to 70 % fibers365 with 30 % wood pulp in paper grammages from 80 to 600 gsm. The papers allow multiple paper packaging applications and satisfy functional requirements for packaging papers re rigidity, tear strength, cutting, barrier coating demands, machine time etc.
Of course, the concept of fibers365 can also be used for other fiber crops such as hemp, flax, bagasse, miscanthus, empty fruit bunch, cotton, banana stems, kenaf, silphie and others, without the logistical complexity of large-scale industrial biomass plants. This allows regional, decentralized biomass refining and value creation at farm level anywhere in the world.
The Fibers365 concept
produces functional fibers and higher bioenergy output from annual biomass and allows for high value, unpolluted biophenol (lignin) and biopolymer side fractions
is carbon negative in production and consumption, considering a one year life cycle from production to final consumption and regrowth of the pulped biomass
requires less processing energy than the bioenergy intrinsic to the pulped biomass
supports soil fertility in a truly circular approach on site
does not compete with food production
allows value creation on farm (biogas plant) level
is free of chemical treatment and chemical side streams requiring incineration
solves common supply chain issues for biomass from annual plants through its easy integration in an existing infrastructure at reduced CAPEX.
In May 2021 AGRES Systems, technology partner of FIBERS365, has been awarded with an EPC contract for a large scale STEAMFIBER project.
The plant will produce 15,000 tons of straw fibers from local harvesting residues per year.
At the project location in western Ukraine the STEAMFIBER system is integrated with a 5 MW biogas plant, which creates a fully sustainable environment.
The completion of the plant is planned for December 2021.
FIBER365's unique STEAMFIBER technology upgrades the recently built ECONOMIZER straw processing plant, as the client is convinced of the great opportunities this project generates.
The fibers365 is nominated for the SUSTAINABILITY AWARDS 2021.