FAQ

Bioprocess Pilot Facility

  1. What is the Bioprocess Pilot Facility?
  2. What is biomass?
  3. Why is it important to develop bioprocesses?
  4. Why do we need the Bioprocess Pilot Facility?
  5. Does the facility contribute to the Dutch economy?
  6. Does the facility contribute to the Dutch job market?
  7. How will the facility be built and when will it be operational?
  8. How flexible is the facility?
  9. Why wouldn’t a company or university have their own pilot facility?
  10. A biodiesel plant in Groningen will be shut down. What's the difference between this biodiesel plant and the Bioprocess Pilot Facility?
  11. Who will work in the BPF?
  12. How will the facility be kept state-of-the-art?
  13. How many companies can run test projects at the site at once?
  14. What are the costs to run projects at the Bioprocess Pilot Facility?
  15. What criteria do companies have to meet in order to be eligible to use the facilities?
  16. Can I bring my own equipment at the facility?
  17. How can I be assured that any activities performed at the facility will remain confidential?
  18. Can I bring my own equipment at the facility?
  19. What is a bioprocess?
  20. What makes the facility unique in the world?
  21. Can I bring my own staff members to work at the facility?

Answers

What is the Bioprocess Pilot Facility?

In the Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) companies and knowledge institutions can develop novel, sustainable and environmentally friendly production processes based on biological materials (called ‘biomass’). For example, processes to convert agricultural waste into biofuels. The BPF is especially designed to enable the step-up from laboratory scale to industrial scale. Users can couple separate modules to investigate and develop their own processes. Another important aspect of the facility is to provide training and education.

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What is biomass?

Biomass is a collective term for renewable, biologically degradable (by-)products and waste materials from agriculture, forestry and industry. Examples include: wood, sugar cane, coleseed, animal fats and manure. Municipal solid waste, provided it is biodegradable, is also a usable form of biomass. It is anticipated that biomass and bioprocesses will be important tools in combatting pollution as well as tackling climate change and energy security.

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Why is it important to develop bioprocesses?

There are several reasons why the transition from the use of fossil-based raw materials to renewable biomass in production processes is important. The first reason is the growing evidence that commercially available coal and oil reserves will eventually run out. A further reason is that pollution from current industrial processes damages the environment, has adverse health effects and impacts the climate. Moreover, there is also an economic motive for the switch to bioprocesses since fluctuating fossil fuels prices usually entails economic instability.

The use of biomass, such as plant materials or organic agricultural waste, provides a renewable and sustainable alternative to fossil-based resources. Agricultural waste, for example, can be turned into biofuels or into raw materials for the production of chemical and pharmaceutical products. These bioprocesses are deemed sustainable and “green” because they are less polluting and the raw materials used are renewable and unlimited. By switching to bioprocesses, we can move forward from the current fossil-based economy towards a sustainable, bio-based economy.

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Why do we need the Bioprocess Pilot Facility?

Companies and universities invest a lot of research into sustainable production processes to replace current, more polluting processes. Switching to sustainable processes is key for reducing pollution and its adverse affect on health and the environment as well as minimizing the contribution of greenhouse gases towards climate change. Sustainable bioprocesses rely on renewable biomass instead of limited, fossil-based resources. They have been studied and developed in laboratories and the results are highly promising. But how do they behave on a larger scale? This major issue has to be addressed before companies can begin to scale-up new processes in order to apply them on an industrial scale.

Scale-up research is very risky and requires extensive experimentation using complex equipment. It is currently the main bottleneck in the development of sustainable alternatives to current processes that not only pollute the environment but also use up precious raw materials. A pilot facility dedicated to bioprocess scale-up is so complex and expensive that it can only be realized in a broad collaboration. This is why universities, companies and public authorities have joined forces in creating the Bioprocess Pilot Facility.

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Does the facility contribute to the Dutch economy?

The emerging international bio-based economy presents major economic opportunities for the Netherlands. Based on its expertise and geographical location, the Netherlands is well positioned in establishing a large chain of biomass, biofuels and biogas streams. In doing so, it would serve as an international gateway for the European bio-based market. Recognising the pivotal role the Bioprocess Pilot Facilityplays in this development, the project has received generous financial support from the Dutch government as well as from Europe. It is expected that the facility will also generate new companies (spin-offs) by turning smart ideas into commercial products and processes.

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Does the facility contribute to the Dutch job market?

The Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) itself will employ approximately 25-30 full-time staff. More importantly, the BPF will make the region more attractive to various companies involved in the bio-based economy - not just factories for biomass conversion but also companies involved in the international transport of biomass, in its certification, financial services and international trading of biomass and prefabricates. The facility will also attract students, knowledge workers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international conferences and symposiums.

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How will the facility be built and when will it be operational?

The Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) will be built in three phases. The first phase is aimed at the complex pretreatment of biomass by means of biorefinery processes. Parallel to this, equipment will be installed to produce biofuels and biochemicals, and separation technologies will be added. The third phase will be realized at a somewhat later stage (new generation bioreactors). Eventually the BPF will span about 5000 m2. News about the planned extensions will be posted on this website in due course.

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How flexible is the facility?

The facility is capable of processing very diverse types of raw materials such as agricultural waste, wood or straw. Because of the modular setup of the facility, users can design their own processes by coupling modules. This results in a high level of flexibility, allowing a diversity of users - from large and small companies to academic researchers - to work at the Bioprocess Pilot Facility.

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Why wouldn’t a company or university have their own pilot facility?

The Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) is not a facility where industries can take a final step in turning ideas into commercial products and hence, profit. Instead, it is dedicated to the more fundamental research and development phase in between laboratory research phase and commercial implementation. The BPF aims to answer the following (technological) questions: How do bioprocesses and underlying fundamental principles tested on a laboratory scale behave on larger scales? What scale-up approaches give the best results? What aspects need to be investigated further before a bioprocess can be scaled up? To answer these questions, complex equipment and much expertise is needed, which is too expensive for any single company or university to finance on their own. This is why BE-Basic decided to develop a joint facility which is open for a variety of users who wish to carry out large scale experiments in a cost-effective manner.

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A biodiesel plant in Groningen will be shut down. What's the difference between this biodiesel plant and the Bioprocess Pilot Facility?

Unlike the biodiesel plant in Groningen, which produced biodiesel, the Bioprocess Pilot Plant (BPF) is not a production plant. The BPF facilitates research into new bioprocesses to produce chemicals, materials and fuels from biomass such as agricultural waste. So, the BPF is a research facility. Another important aspect of the BPF is to offer training and education.

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Who will work in the BPF?

An experienced team undertakes the day-to-day operations of the Bioprocess Pilot Facility. In due course, the facility will employ about 25-30 specialists. They will be responsible for operating the complex equipment and performing all experiments.

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How will the facility be kept state-of-the-art?

The Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) is coupled to the BE-Basic R&D programme and will be continuously updated with the latest results from these studies. This will ensure that the BPF will always remain a state-of-the-art biorefinery and fermentation facility.

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How many companies can run test projects at the site at once?

This depends on whether a user requires the entire facility / all equipment at the same time. The Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) is designed in such a way that in principle, it can host multiple industrial and academic groups at the same time whilst maintaining confidentiality. We will examine those possibilities for each user request we receive.

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What are the costs to run projects at the Bioprocess Pilot Facility?

A single tariff is used for all users, whether users are BPF partners or third parties. The costs of using the BPF are substantially less than would be involved in a single-purpose built facility, due to the its efficient set-up of risk and cost sharing. It will allow SMEs that otherwise would never have access to this sort of facilities to pilot their innovations. After discussing your specific plans we can provide you with a quote.

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What criteria do companies have to meet in order to be eligible to use the facilities?

The clients of the Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) execute projects dealing with innovations and scale-up in the field of bio-based manufacturing. The BPF will work like a Contract Research Organization and not be exclusive. Priorities will be set in the likely situation the unit becomes more fully booked.

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Can I bring my own equipment at the facility?

The Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) has its own experienced crew to operate the process equipment. This crew will cooperate with each project’s staff members. Every user will be required to adhere to operational rules at the BPF.

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How can I be assured that any activities performed at the facility will remain confidential?

The permanent Bioprocess Pilot Facility staff is bound to a confidentiality agreement. Users of the facility bring with them their own ideas, innovations and technologies. The IP rights of the results of their work remain with the users.

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Can I bring my own equipment at the facility?

The Bioprocess Pilot Facility will be fitted with the most essential equipment. However, specific project-related hardware can be added. All equipment must meet various criteria, such as related to the facility’s safety standards.

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What is a bioprocess?

A bioprocess is specific process that uses complete living cells or their components (e.g., bacteria, enzymes, chloroplasts) to obtain desired products. Transport of energy and mass is fundamental to many biological and environmental processes. Areas, from food processing to thermal design of building to biomedical devices to pollution control and global warming, require knowledge of how energy and mass can be transported through materials (mass, momentum, heat transfer).

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What makes the facility unique in the world?

The Bioprocess Pilot Facility is unique in the flexibility in unity operations where we can upscale your process from biomass to end product, with a longstanding historical track record.

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Can I bring my own staff members to work at the facility?

Yes, transferring our knowledge to your company is important and close collaboration in the project is beneficial for the success of the project.

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