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Exploring Sustainable Solutions: A4F’s Impact at AlgaEurope 

ALIGNED partner A4F, a leading bio-industrial technology group, showcased its algae-based innovations as a Gold Sponsor at AlgaEurope 2023. The conference, renowned for its commitment to sustainability, welcomed A4F’s expertise in algae solutions. Key team members like Luís Costa presented insights on sustainable decarbonization, algae’s potential in bioplastics, and land-based seaweed aquaculture.

A4F’s presentations highlighted their role in circular bioeconomy models and technological advancements during the conference, held from December 12th to 15th, 2023.

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ALIGNED AND THE EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL

The ALIGNED project is poised to play a pivotal role in furthering the objectives of the European Green Deal, a comprehensive policy initiative by the European Union aimed at transforming the region into a climate-neutral and sustainable economy. This ambitious deal recognizes the urgent need to address environmental challenges, combat climate change, and promote sustainable growth. By aligning with the European Green Deal, ALIGNED seeks to contribute to these overarching goals by advancing the field of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and fostering collaboration with key industries in five bio-based sectors: construction, woodworking, textile, pulp and paper, and bio-chemicals.

At its core, the European Green Deal emphasizes the importance of transitioning to a circular economy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and fostering innovation in sustainable technologies. ALIGNED’s focus on improving, harmonizing, and aligning LCA methodology for bio-based industries directly supports these objectives, offering a strategic and scientific approach to assess and enhance the environmental performance of key sectors. The collaboration between ALIGNED and industries within the bio-based sectors is crucial for driving the necessary changes in industrial practices, ultimately contributing to the EU’s commitment to a more sustainable and resilient future.

In summary, the ALIGNED project not only aligns with the European Green Deal but also serves as a catalyst for positive change by developing a robust modeling framework. This framework not only addresses current environmental challenges but also lays the groundwork for a more sustainable and eco-friendly future in line with the transformative goals set forth by the European Green Deal.

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Utexbel’s Contribution to Sustainable Textile Production in the ALIGNED Project

In this interview with Mr. Jean-Luc Derycke, representing Utexbel, we explore Utexbel’s specific role within the ALIGNED project. Utexbel is at the forefront of this initiative, aiming to realize circular textile products, including yarns and fabrics, with an environmental impact comparable to their virgin material counterparts.

What specific role does Utexbel play within the ALIGNED project?

A: The role of Utexbel in the Aligned project is the realization of a circular textile product (yarns and fabrics), of which the environmental impact can be compared to equivalent products made of virgin material, based on the knowledge acquired during the Aligned project. Utexbel has for the moment a range of circular yarns and fabrics based on recycled cotton and Polyester/Cotton fibres. The fibres come from various sources: industrial waste, pre-consumer waste, and post-consumer textile waste.

Could you elaborate on the strategy for identifying and implementing solutions in the textile sector as part of the ALIGNED project? What are the primary obstacles or challenges encountered in this process?

A: The most important challenge is to find a suitable end-use for the circular product. For the moment, circular textile products are more expensive than textile products made of virgin fibres. The main reason is that many conventional textile products are produced in low-wage countries and imported in the EU. On the other hand, circular products are produced locally, i.e. in countries with higher wages, as we want a short supply line.

A second challenge for circular products is the lifetime of the textile material. If your customer expects that a garment can be washed for at least 100 times, it makes no sense to create a circular version that only lasts for 20 washing cycles. This is not a sustainable solution. It is important to know the expectations of the end customer to adapt your material choices in relation to the expected lifetime of the end product.

A third challenge for circular products is the homogeneity of the input material. If you want to get mechanically shredded fibers with a spinnable quality level, the input batch should be homogeneous in colour, composition, construction and origin. By construction, we mean knitwear or woven fabrics. By origin, we mean post or pre-consumer or industrial waste. Only in that case, a shredder can set up his machines in an optimal way to get the best possible fiber distribution and removal of external parts enabling good spinnability in the spinning mill.

To enable industrial processing, homogeneous batches should be at least 10 tons of usable textile material.

Besides the industrial feasibility, traceability is also a very important issue, as you need to prove the circular content of a circular article. Identification of batches and input materials is mandatory.

There is also an administrative burden concerning circular products, as, for the moment, there is no clear European regulation concerning the definition of textile waste and textile material that can be reused in the supply chain. In Belgium e.g. we have to rely on regional regulations, which are very stringent. Only a few cases of circular textile products are available, and the administrations don’t know how to deal with the issue: when does old textile material, considered as waste, become a reusable raw material? I hope the future will bring us a sustainable and practical solution. Finally, I can say that the development of circular products is a discovery at each stage and for each project. A lot of issues, on the technical, economic and administrative level have to be settled. We are only at the start of a great adventure!

Jean-Luc Derycke

Utexbel

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The role of OLEON at the ALIGNED Project

Oleon, an oleochemicals company, plays a crucial role in representing the biochemicals sector within the ALIGNED project. In this interview featuring Adrien Karolak, we will explore Oleon’s specific role, with a primary emphasis on their selected case study concerning the production of acid dimers derived from plant-based fatty acids.

What is the role of OLEON in the ALIGNED project?

Oleon is an Oleochemicals company, and we are involved in the ALIGNED project as an industrial partner representing the biochemicals sector. Within this framework, our role is to provide a case study representative of our activities. We have chosen to work on acid dimers produced from plant-based fatty acids. This case study plays an essential role in the development of the ALIGNED project.  Its aim is to provide information that will enable our academic partners to develop their models and tools. Ultimately, this will enable high-quality evaluation studies to be carried out in the bio-based sectors, with industrial relevance and interoperability.

How do you plan to conduct the identification and demonstration of solutions in the chemical sector? What are the main challenges?

The first step is to carry out a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the case study we have chosen to work on. LCA is a very good analysis tool that will allow us to identify the major environmental impacts of our product and its location in its life cycle. Our experience in LCA developed prior to the Aligned project, has already enabled us to identify them. The next step will be to focus on the solutions to be put in place to reduce the environmental impact of this product. To do this, we are fortunate to be surrounded by skilled teams who are contributing their knowledge and expertise to our project. The role of our academic partners is also essential, with BTG and NTNU bringing a fresh outside perspective to our manufacturing and raw materials processes. And they are in a better position to make innovative proposals on the subject. Of course, developing a project of this scale comes with its share of challenges, as its objectives go beyond our usual working framework. For example, we want to carry out a complete environmental assessment of our product, its application, and its end-of-life (cradle to grave). This poses several difficulties, as Oleon is an intermediate player in the value chain. We collect a lot of information on the upstream part of our value chain, but little on the downstream part. So, we can carry out cradle-to-grave LCAs. We supply raw materials to our customers, who then transform them before they reach the end consumer. To carry out a cradle-to-grave LCA, we therefore need to include other stakeholders.  In the bio-based chemicals sector, most of the environmental impact of products is due to the production of raw materials. If we want to effectively increase the sustainability of our products, it is essential that we also work on upstream agriculture. This means including our suppliers and studying the eco-design proposals for their production.

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Interview with Partners: AlgaeForFuture

In our interview with Laura Monteiro from AlgaeForFuture, a key partner in the ALIGNED Project, we dive into their role in advancing sustainability within the Blue Bio-based industry. A4F focuses on implementing advanced Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methods to evaluate the environmental performance of large-scale industrial microalgae cultivation and biorefinery. This pioneering work aims to shape the future of sustainability standards and practices in this emerging industry.

What is the role of A4F in the ALIGNED project?

A4F leads WP9, dedicated to the Blue Bio-based industry. Our goal is to apply and evaluate the performance of the advanced LCA methods developed within the project, in a real-world case study of industrial microalgae cultivation and biorefinery. In the ALIGNED project, A4F aims to better assess the environmental performance of this emerging industry in Europe, particularly on what concerns water and energy use, but also the effective CO2 uptake by the microalgae. These are critical aspects for this industry to thrive, so it is very important to develop robust assessment methodologies. Also, A4F will identify improvement measures that are suitable at the industrial scale and provide guidelines that can be uptaken by other companies for the sustainable development of the microalgae industry.

Could you elaborate on how A4F intends to apply the advanced LCA methods developed within the project to analyze the performance and value addition in a real-world case study of the blue biobased industry?

A4F is implementing the largest microalgae production facility in the EU, which includes also a biorefinery. The sustainability assessment studies that exist usually refer to small pilot to demonstration facilities. The use of the advanced LCA methods to the industrial facilities of microalgae cultivation and biorefinery will allow to creation of breakthrough knowledge on microalgae sustainability assessment. A4F will use the advanced LCA methods to assess the industrial processes and depict environmental hotspots that will be optimized, within the project lifetime, to improve the environmental performance of the system. The lessons learned will be extrapolated and will allow to improve the performance of future microalgae facilities developed by A4F and others.

Because the microalgae sector is a new and small sector, there are no specific sustainability standards or policies for this industry. However, the need to create standards and knowledge on sustainability assessment of microalgae cultivation and processing is key to improving the ongoing debate on CCU/CCS and the potential role of microalgae on the carbon credits market, as well as to demonstrating the advantages of using microalgae feedstocks in alternative to conventional plant-based feedstocks.

LCA Methodology Workshop

ALIGNED LCA Methodology Workshop

The ALIGNED project recently hosted an online methodology workshop that brought together 160 participants who actively contributed to the discussion. This event delved into essential topics related to Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) inventory and impact assessment, featuring insightful presentations and discussions led by project members Massimo and Lorie Hamelin from INSA Toulouse.

The attendee’s involvement included actively participating in polls and contributing to discussions throughout the event. The diversity of perspectives and insights from these participants greatly enriched the workshop.

Massimo Pizzol, Project Coordinator of the ALIGNED project, kicked off the workshop with a presentation that focused on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) inventory. During his talk, he explored critical issues, such as the competition for biomass and dynamic carbon accounting. He also discussed the ALIGNED project’s approach to addressing these complex subjects, shedding light on innovative solutions and strategies.

Following Massimo’s presentation, Lorie took the stage to share the main challenges in impact assessment. Lorie delved into topics like biogenic carbon and dynamic characterization factors, providing valuable insights into these intricacies. She also elaborated on the approach adopted within the ALIGNED project to tackle these issues effectively.

The ALIGNED project got important feedback from the workshop, and they want to make sure these tools are useful for LCA professionals and researchers.

If you couldn’t attend the workshop or wish to review the informative presentations and discussions, you can obtain access to the recording by reaching out to the BTG team at groenestege@btgworld.com.

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ALIGNED’s Second General Assembly in Antwerp

In the heart of Antwerp, Belgium, the ALIGNED consortium celebrated its second general assembly meeting.

Organizers from Aalborg University, Massimo Pizzol, and Flora Champetier warmly greeted fellow consortium members. The event celebrated past achievements and offered insights into the project’s status.

The meeting, last September 5th, marked a significant gathering of consortium members. The event encompassed a range of crucial topics, commencing with Aalborg University’s presentation of the project’s present status and trajectory.

BTG contributed vital insights from sector data descriptions, while consortium members critically evaluated methodologies employed. A dynamic dialogue unfolded among participants like OLEON, FOR, UTEX, CENT, KING, BLOOM, and A4F, centring on challenges and valuable takeaways.

Updates on Work Packages 2-3, 4-6, and 9, alongside a dedicated exploitation workshop led by Sustainable Innovations Europe (SIE), highlighted the project’s comprehensive approach. Wrapping up the meeting, Aalborg University’s coordination team outlined upcoming steps, fostering a sense of unity and progress as ALIGNED looks to the future.

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CONSULTATION ROUND INISIGHTS: INTERVIEW WITH MARISA GROENESTEGE FROM BTG

Marisa Groenestege is a consultant at BTG Biomass Technology Group, one of the ALIGNED project consortium members and the Lead of the action about the improvement of bio-based industry in the textiles sector. Alongside its colleague Patrick Reumerman, she ensures the consultations and workshops development, as well the gathering of information about the different bio-based sectors.

What is the main role of BTG in ALIGNED?

(BTG) is a high-tech company, employing a team of skilled bioeconomy and bioenergy consultants, researchers, technology, and business developers. Our firm has three decades of experience operating in the bioeconomy, developing, and promoting technology and processes to produce bioenergy, biofuels, and bio-based products, combining academic intelligence with practical field experience. Within the ALIGNED project, BTG is involved in all WPs and leads the specifical improvement of bio-based industry in the textiles sector. In those first months, we are carrying out different consultations and workshops, as well the gathering information about the Construction, Woodworking and Textiles sectors.

What are your expectations from the ALIGNED project?

Bio-based products hold the promise of being far more environmentally friendly, sustainable, and circular than their fossil alternatives. It is very important to make sure that these bio-based products are promoted and developed and that their environmental benefits are advertised.

Our goal is to improve the environmental sustainability of bio-based industries, specifically in the construction, woodworking, textiles, pulp and paper and biochemicals sectors. We do this by making it easier to prove a product’s sustainability, by aligning and simplifying LCA methodology.

To better understand the environmental sustainability within these sectors, we are gathering the opinions of people working in these sectors about the most important environmental issues and the assessment methods.

Can you talk a bit more about the Consultation Rounds you are coordinating for the stakeholders’ engagement?

To make sure that our work and our methods are accepted and used in practice, it is vital that we engage with stakeholders, so that we address the actual problems they have.

We are currently having online consultations, one for each of the 5 sectors. These consultations are in the form of an online survey, which is mostly multiple-choice and takes about 5 to 10 minutes to fill in. We recently held the consultations for construction, woodworking, and textiles sectors, are currently holding the consultation for the pulp and paper sector and we will be publishing the biochemicals consultation soon as well. All people from these sectors are encouraged to fill in the survey and help us shape the ALIGNED project!

What are your first findings in those activities? Is there any need that you find in common in these different sectors?

We found that many people have difficulties with environmental assessments. Not only are there many different standards and systems with different outcomes, but the methodologies are also often time-consuming, costly, and difficult to access and understand. Exactly what the ALIGNED project aims to improve!

What do you think will be the main outcomes of the next Consultation Rounds?

We want to gather as much information and opinions about environmental sustainability in the sectors as possible. We would like to know what environmental sustainability problems there are, how these can best be addressed, and how to make it easier to prove that. So please, fill out the survey, join our workshops and let your voice be heard!

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ALIGNED CELEBRATES ITS FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETING

This morning, the ALIGNED project partners celebrated the First General Assembly Meeting of the initiative. Technical and Administrative coordinators from Aalborg University Massimo Pizzol and Flora Champetier welcomed the consortium members and offered an overview of the ALIGNED project status.

After the introduction, the consortium members leading the LCA and environmental insights in many sectors, such as INSAT, INRAE, the University of Antwerpen, BTG, UTEXBEL, The Aalborg University, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology showed its action during the first 6 months and its upcoming actions. Once the first project status was done, the partners welcomed Algae 4 Future and INRAE as new consortium members.

Afterwards, Sustainable Innovations Europe shared the Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation results from the first months, highlighting the excellent performance and brand awareness of the project with all the stakeholders involved.

Once the communications update was made, the stakeholder’s engagement was the BTG’s topic presentation, highlighting the Consultation Rounds results, showing the main insights obtained and the next ones ahead. Finally, the Aalborg University coordination team took the floor of this online meeting to set the next steps and make the wrap-up of the meeting.

In the words of Massimo Pizzol, Technical Coordinator of the ALIGNED project: “These first months of activity showed us how collaboration could help us to achieve a new and enhanced method for LCA planning in bio-based sectors. We are excited about our upcoming actions, and I am sure that we’ll get many excellent insights to achieve the ALIGNED project purpose”.

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ALIGNED AS SPEAKER IN THE SUSTRACK MOBILIZATION AND MUTUAL LEARNING (MML) WORKSHOP

The SUSTRACK project and the European Bioeconomy Network (EuBioNet), have created a working group on “Standardisation, certification, labelling and monitoring”.

As part of the collaboration among different projects, SUSTRACK hosted a mobilization and mutual learning (MML) workshop on 14th of February 2023 from 10.00 to 12.00 CET (online).

Some of the objectives of this workshop were:

  • Facilitate the awareness and knowledge exchange among the projects of the working group;
  • Discuss collaboration opportunities and joint activities;
  • Define common action plans.

There, Patrick Reumerman from BTG Group, was in charge of providing a short presentation of the ALIGNED project, including its objectives, expected outcomes, and sectors of interest.