BioWILL, integrated "zero-waste" biorefinery
BioWILL is an Interreg North-West Europe funded project focused on an integrated "zero-waste" biorefinery. The recovery of relatively small quantities of high value extractives from biomass has the potential to transform the economic viability of biorefineries and promote transition to a zero-waste circular bioeconomy.
A key focus of BioWILL will be the production of high value natural salicylates from willow bark for use in medical applications. Willow bark is one of the few plant materials to contain substances called salicins that are as effective as synthetic equivalents for pain-killing and anti-inflammatory properties, with fewer undesirable side effects.
Bark residue and bark-free willow pulp can be converted into biodegradable safe packaging material suitable for food that could replace plastics.
Anaerobic digestion of the end of life packaging materials will support the production of biomethane – a carbon neutral renewable gas that can be used in the same way as natural gas for renewable electricity, heating, industry and transport.
Organic soil fertiliser
The anaerobic digestion process will also produce digestate biofertiliser which can act as an organic soil improver, substituting for chemical fertiliser application on farmlands, and in turn reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving soil fertility and soil carbon sequestration whilst assisting the European Union ambitions for 25% organic farming, 20% reduction in chemical fertiliser application and a 50% reduction in pesticides application by 2030.
Support of rural economies
This project will also provide benefits to rural communities by demonstrating the commercial viability of rural biorefineries to provide alternative income for farmers, increase employment across a wide skill base and further support the decarbonisation of the agriculture industry.
Coordinated by the University of Limerick, BioWILL consists of 10 project partners in four countries across Northwest Europe (Belgium, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom).
Coordinated by the University of Limerick, the consortium comprises of:
- three universities (University of Limerick, Bangor University and University College Cork);
- three research institutes (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Institute of Technology Tralee and Materia Nova);
- four small medium enterprises (Cellulac Plc, Epitheal Ltd, Agriland and Helicon Ltd);
- one consultancy (Crops4Energy);
- one industry forum representing all sectors of the renewable gas industry in Ireland from producer to end-users (The Renewable Gas Forum of Ireland);
- one gas company (Gas Networks Ireland) and;
- one organisation representing farmers and landowners across the EU (European Landowners’ Organisation).
Gas Networks Ireland’s role in the project includes:
- Analysing performance indicators and economic parameters of willow pulp in anaerobic digestion.
- Reviewing requirements and processing steps of upgrading biomethane to network specifications.
- Examining carbon sequestration potential of the digestate based biofertiliser produced.
For more information, please visit https://www.nweurope.eu/projects/project-search/biowill/