Italian biopolymer production technology developer Bio-on S.p.A. and Sociedad Cooperativa General Agropecuaria (ACOR), a Castilian-Leon cooperative which produces and markets sugar, food oils, biodiesel, various products for food animal and renewable electric energy, plan to study and evaluate the opportunity to exploit Bio-on technologies for the production of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastics from co- and by-products of sugar beet processing at an industrial scale in Spain.
The two companies will start working together on a feasibility study for the realization of a commercial-scale PHA plant in Spain within a factory of ACOR located in the town of Olmedo. The selection of this production site will guarantee that the bioplastic project will benefit from synergies, interconnections and common services with the sugar factory, but without interfering with the latter's production. Production capacity will be decided over the course of the project implementation.
Under the terms of the agreement, ACOR will also enjoy exclusive marketing rights in Spain and Portugal. Bio-on’s Minerv PHA bioplastics are made from renewable plant sources (and now also lipids) that do not compete with the food chain. They guarantee the same thermo-mechanical properties of conventional plastics with the advantage of being eco-friendly and 100% naturally biodegradable. In addition, they reportedly offer application possibilities in sectors where traditional plastics are not used.
In a separate announcement, Bio-on and Gruppo Hera, one of Italy's largest multi-utility providers, have reached an agreement to take 90% and 10% shares, respectively, in LUX-ON, a new company founded by Bio-on that aims to produce PHA biopolymers using CO2 captured from the atmosphere and using non-fossil fuel energy sources. Hera has the option to increase its share in the joint venture to 49.9%.
The laboratories and first plant of the new Lux-on project will be built by the end of 2019 close to the Bio-on Plants industrial facility at Castel San Pietro Terme (Bologna). It will be designed by Bio-on technicians in collaboration with Hera, with carbon capture plants and a production facility using renewable solar energy. The plant will have a flexible production capacity that is rapidly expandable.
The electric energy used in Lux-on's production process will be produced by photovoltaic systems which, aside from directly powering production, will also provide storable energy for night time power (24/7 production). For energy storage, partnerships will be entered into with international experts in hydrogen (H) technology. Hydrogen will be produced from solar energy, stored and then converted to electric energy to power the plant when the solar panels are not running, i.e. at night or when light levels are low.
Bio-on has been producing PHA since mid-2018 at a 1,000 tonnes/year rapidly expandable to 2,000 tonnes/year in Bologna and targets advanced niche products. The company can also license its technology for larger plants of 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes/year and says that the products it produces are not on competition with those produced at larger plants
The Bologna plant is equipped with modern technologies and advanced research and development laboratories. New agricultural waste carbon sources for producing biopolymers are continuously tested to increase the range of technologies offered by Bio-on.