Interview with

Blaž Likozar

National Institute of Chemistry

Blaž, what is NIC role in BioSPRINT?
The role of NIC is both related to what we primarily do, which is linked to catalyst and chemical reaction engineering, meaning, that we are tightly involved in the conversion WP´s like WP2, which deals with catalysis modelling, kinetics and also intensification of the reactive step.
There it is of course also important to have a more realistic view of the whole process intensification and the process chain. Further, we are also involved in the upstream and downstream purification, which are the preceding and following WP´s. And of course once the water is removed the final compounding and formulation into resins, the WP 4 actually led by AEP polymers, where the resins will be produced from the compounds and building blocks. In addition, we are also involved in horizontal or soft WP’s related to dissemination, exploitation and training.

What is it that you are currently working on in WP1?
Well, at the moment what we are doing is testing the feedstock itself. So, we are receiving and have received various feedstocks. So, that is I guess for us a big part for WP 1.

“The main challenge is the technical and economical assessment of the upstream purifications of streams”

Looking at challenges, what are in your opinion main challenges of WP1?
Well, in my opinion it would be to evaluate in WP1, especially with regard to techno economics and other umbrella evaluations or assessments, how technically and economically feasible are the upstream purifications of streams which are normally not really prioritized and not really favored because of the diluted and transient nature of the streams. Further, the composition is changing and there is a lot of water, so they are difficult to purify. The membrane technologies which are to be integrated are notorious to have a high CAPEX, especially when numbering or scaling up. So I guess that’s the most important aspects of the WP1 – to have to assess this technically, of course in an appropriate TRL scale, to see what the challenges are, how robust the technologies actually are. And of course, also to sample the streams, to see the temporal variability of the streams and then to see how this is feasible in a realistic context.

And if looking at the whole project – which challenges do you see here?
For the project I guess it would be the actual demonstration of the integrated process rig of stream, to show that it is possible to operate either continuously or semi-continuously over, well not extended times but at least some more realistic times, to see whether there is any fouling or deactivation, as well as if the technology itself is stable enough to be integrated over long times, so this is also the intensification part.

“What I also mostly like about the project - that the challenges of bio-refining are addressed using a conventional engineering toolset”

Which part or what is it, which you most like about BioSPRINT project?
What I most like about the project in general is that the actual bio-refining is taking up a kind of conventional chemical or process engineering approach. So, even initially, when the BBI call was out, it was a really nice refreshment, that the actual intensification was considered. That is what I also mostly like about the project – that the challenges of bio-refining are addressed using a conventional engineering toolset, which is pretty straight forward or conventional in the fossil refining, which has been around for 100-plus years, but in bio refining it is not so common and it is often not considered and with regard to this, there is also a lot of room for optimization.

OK, great, thank you for the interview and thank you for your time.