Today represents Day 1 of the SteamBioAfrica project. It is an €11.7m, four-year, Innovation Action project funded by the EU's Horizon Europe programme. The tagline of the project is "Innovative Large-Scale Production of Affordable Clean Burning Solid Biofuel and Water in Southern Africa: Transforming Bush Encroachment from a Problem into a Secure and Sustainable Energy Source".

The project will address the problems experienced with bush encroachment in a number of southern African countries by using this biomass as a feedstock for a steam torrefaction process, developed in SteamBio (an earlier EU-funded project). Their are two main outputs of this process, a solid material which has improved properties, with regards to its use as a clean-burning fuel, over the original biomass, and a liquid condensate containing volatile components removed from the biomass during torrefaction.

Celignis will be an important analytical partner in the project, undertaking detailed compositional analyses of the feedstocks and process outputs as well as providing guidance and SOPs to the local partners for routine analyses (e.g. for proximate, ultimate, and calorific value analysis). Additionally, Celignis is the main partner responsible for the analysis of the liquid condensate fraction and for the evaluation of suitable applications and markets for it. This is expected to be a complex mixture of degradation products, particularly those coming from the extractives and hemciellulose fractions of the biomass. The profiling of this liquid stream will involve use of our extensive range of chromatography equipment, particularly our Agilent iFunnel 6550 QTOF-LC/MS device. Following this detailed analysis we will then consider which components within the liquid are of value and will consider applications for these (either in crude or refined forms) and will work on techniques for separation and purification. This aspect will follow a similar approach to our work in the UNRAVEL project (funded by the BBI-JU programme of Horizon 2020) where we identified betulin in birch bark as a high value chemical that warranted extraction and purification and then worked on developing a commercially-relevant approach to enable this.

Click here to read more about the SteamBioAfrica project and our involvement in it.