Exergy leads process modelling, optimisation, and scale-up for ValueMag Project

Exergy Ltd was delighted to attend the kick-off meeting of a new BBI (R09 2016) project in the Sustainable Process department.
The VALUEMAG project, supported by the Bio-based Industries (BBI) Joint-Undertaking (JU), officially started with its kick-off meeting held in Athens on April 26th.
VALUEMAG, acronym of Valuable Products from Algae Using New Magnetic Cultivation and Extraction Techniques, involving eleven main players from the European industry and research centres in the field of technologies for algae. It aims to develop ground-breaking solutions for microalgae production and harvesting as well as scaling up biomass transformation systems in order to provide new technologies for aquatic/marine biomass integrated bio-refineries.
Exergy Ltd is leading the modelling and optimisation of the downstream processing in order to obtain high-value products from algae. Exergy is also leading the modelling, simulation, optimisation and up-scaling of the entire process along with the energy optimisation, where the exergy analysis developed from Galileo’s eye project in Exergy Ltd will be applied, among others.
During the KOM, all the partners in the consortium introduced themselves, met the project officer and were made aware of the different WPs involved in the project. These were introduced and explained before a discussion about the management of the research action. Finally, a visit across the labs of NTUA guided by Professor Hristoforou (project coordinator) took place before officially closing the meeting.
“The algae potential has been explored for decades due to its diverse application for a wide range of products: biofuels, hydrogen, nutraceutical, food, cosmetics, pigments, animal food, etc. Several species of green algae have and are being explored and continuously optimised. However, several hurdles need to be overcome to boost algae at commercial scale as a viable solution: identification and optimisation of the proper strains, optimisation and maximisation of the process productivity and reduction of energy intensity and costs related to the overall process. ValueMag project overcomes part of these limitations due to the high costs and will aim to demonstrate the production of different products, including  β-carotene, from microalgae in marine conditions by using innovative cultivation methods. We are proud to take part in this innovative and pioneering action and collaborate in the modelling and up-scaling of such an interesting system. It will be an outstanding and winsome challenge.” – Says Rocio Roldan, chemical engineer at Exergy Ltd and project manager of Exergy’s ValueMag activities.

ValueMag KOM 1

Picture: Rocio Roldan presenting Exergy’s approach

Research collaboration- How to turn CO2 into useful industry products?

On the morning of Thursday 20th April, the engineer Rocio Roldan from Exergy Ltd and Dr. Zhaorong Huang, from Cranfield University along with Andrew Coleman and Jasbir Singh, from HEL Group developed a meeting with the aim to create a collaboration in catalyst and chemical engineering areas.
Various approaches for the capture and transformation of CO2 from industrial sources in different industries (brewery, power generation, steel, etc.) were discussed as well as the technical and economic feasibility to turn this gaseous effluent into attractive products for the industry from a realistic point of view through novel catalytic systems.
After the discussion, a tour around the facilities of HEL group in Borehamwood was carried out and the attendees could see and understand the evolvement of the company as well as their work on the area of chemical reactors and calorimeters.
“Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as well as the transformation of this CO2 into useful building blocks for the industry is an area of special interest in the chemical engineering field and will be further developed during the following decades. Our society is moving towards a circular economy and a carbon-based circular economy will be part of the game, where the CO2 from different industrial sources will be used to produce new molecules from chemical or biological routes. Continuous research in different fields (science, biology, engineering, catalysis, etc.) is essential nowadays to ensure the targets at mid-long term”. Says Rocio Roldan, chemical engineer at Exergy Ltd.

Exergy progresses towards turning Agri-food waste into electrical energy through the latest MFC activity

In this present project, we look at how to turn agri-food waste into electricity by the use of Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs). MFCs have attracted a lot of attention in the past decade as innovative renewable and carbon-neutral bio-electrochemical devices, capable of generating energy from wastewater (WW) effluents through the action of electroactive microorganisms. In this particular type of fuel cell, microorganisms at the anode break the organic matter down into carbon dioxide, protons and electrons. The electrons flow from the anode to the cathode generating an electrical current, while the protons flow across a proton exchange membrane to combine at the cathode with the electrons and an electron acceptor, usually oxygen, to form water. The generated power output from each MFC can be used for small devices and different applications are being proposed currently by Scientifics in this area.
The source of feedstock is 50-60% kerbside collection and it ends up in a batch anaerobic digester producing biogas and digestate. The digestate is then collected from and employed as feedstock for the electricity production in the MFCs.
On March 28th, Rocio Roldan (project manager from Exergy Ltd) and Miltiadis Samanis (external visitor) carried out the first meeting on the microbial fuel cell design and development at Bath Universitiy. This is being undertaken by Exergy’s research engineer Sara Monasterio under the supervision and support of Mirella Di Lorenzo (Bath Uni).
The meeting started at the University of Bath, beginning with a presentation of the results obtained so far, along with near future considerations based on the current outcomes. Regarding the potential design for the novel MFCs, a preliminary set up was explained which is going to be designed and printed in the following months in order to carry out experiments at laboratory scale with industrial scale forward-looking perspectives. After that, a tour across the labs was carried out in order to provide a better understanding of the experimental activity. Some processes were also explained in detail, such as the preparation and impregnation of the catalysts (to be further developed). Finally, an additional brainstorming was carried out between Exergy’s chemical engineers and Mirella Di Lorenzo (lecturer at Bath Uni and expert in the field) taking advantage of the external visit of Miltiadis from Cyprus with the aim to define further steps related to the reactor design.
“I am really impressed with the different applications and the cross-sectorial potential of the chemical engineering (and biotechnology) in different fields along with the science basis. Microbial fuel cells might be used either for the treatment of wastes (solid or from sewage activities from different industrial sectors) or for the generation of electricity (at small scale nowadays), even for both applications at the same time. I am positive that biotechnology will be the path to cover daily solutions which are not covered in a sustainable way nowadays, even at really competitive and cheap prices. Funding for research and development of these kind of solutions is essential to reach a marketable technology that can be applied at industrial level in the next decades” – Says Rocio Roldan, chemical engineer and project manager at Exergy Ltd.
“MFCs have been proposed as an attractive means to treat WWS while generating electricity. One of the biggest limitations of this technology that still prevents practical applications is, however, associated with the difficulty in the scaling-up. The miniaturisation of the fuel cell design and the arrangement of multiple miniature units in stack is currently considered one of the most viable approach to overcome this limitation. In addition, a wide variety of organic matter, originating from any sort of WW, has been tested as fuel in MFCs, and performance varied according to the biodegradability and bioavailability of the organic substrate” – Says Sara Monasterio, research engineer at Exergy Ltd.

Preliminary Plant Designs for Agrimax – Recycling of Agri-food waste

2nd General Assembly of AgriMax project held in Delft on March 2nd
The partners of the AgriMax project attended the 2nd General Assembly, which took place at the facilities of Bio-process Pilot Facility (BPF), one of the consortium partners involved in the design and engineering of the pilot plants in the project. During the meeting, the results obtained so far were presented and discussed. With the project still in its early stages, the work has been focused on the mapping and characterisation of the food waste to be used as feedstock (tomato, potato, olive and cereal) as well as the specification of the pilot plants, including discussions about the processes being developed for both pilot plants in Italy and Spain.
During the meeting, a series of discussions took place to identify the next steps in the project, define the requirements for the pilot plants and enable work on the respective designs to progress. Finally, a guided tour around the facilities of BPF (based in the DSM industrial estate) was carried out. During this interesting tour, partners were able to understand more about the work developed in BPF facilities and appreciate the different equipment and operations which can be utilised: fermentation operations, thermal treatments (e.g. steam explosion), filtration, spray drying, etc.
The Exergy team is now prepared to start work on the preliminary designs for the pilot plants, starting with the simulation of the cascade processes and the integration of the information and specifications gathered by the different partners during the previous months. A technical visit to the pilot plant of Indulleida (Spain) is expected to take place in the future.
“The visit to BPF has been the perfect way to commence our engineering activities. The team at BPF already have years of experience developing bio-processes for global companies. We would take them as an example of how we make a success story of the AgriMax project.” – Says Jose Molto, Exergy Project Manager and technical coordinator for the pilot plant set-ups in the AgriMax project.

TRIGEN will allow the implementation of more compact, cost-efficient trigeneration systems

Trigeneration systems combine the production of electricity, heat and cooling in one process, however, the challenge for the trigeneration systems is to accomplish the three “trilemma” targets: cost reduction, reduction of emissions, and security of supply.
In order to address these challenges, TRIGEN, project sponsored by Innovate UK, will focus upon the development of a set of sub-systems, which will allow the implementation of more compact and cost-efficient systems for emission-free heat, cool and electricity production. The advantage of TRIGEN is its low capital cost, it can be mass produced and there is no cost and emissions associated with its energy input.
Exergy and Cranfield University are working together for TRIGEN. The project started in October, and so far, some progress has been further developed.
At the last consortium meeting, on January 24th, Cranfield University guided the consortium around their laboratories and test sites to show the installations, machinery and equipment, which  is being used to develop prototypes, tests and other related processes. The visit was intended to focus on the lab-scale test for the TRIGEN technology prototype.
Keep in touch to learn the progress of this ground-breaking project.
Trigen 5 Trigen 4 Trigen 3 Trigen 2

Laboratories at Cranfield University facilities


First technical meeting of the Agrimax project in Parma, Italy (January 26th- 27th 2017)

The AgriMax project (BBI.VC3.D5-2015), where Exergy is leader of the WP2 “Set up of the flexible pilot plants for processing waste-derived biocompounds”, has developed its first technical meeting in Parma (Italy), hosted in the facilities of the consortium partner SSICA. During the meeting, the different activities developed so far were presented and the next actions were discussed, especially the ones related to the biomass and the requirements of both of the pilot plants in Spain and Italy for the treatment of the different crops (tomato, cereal, olive and potato). Two parallel sessions were carried out to show, discuss, agree and define the different cascade processes developed in each pilot plant, taking into account the specifications of the pilot plants’ hosts, Indulleida (for the pilot plant in Spain) and Chiesa (for the pilot plant in Italy).
During this two-day meeting, two technical visits were performed. The first day, the consortium partners had the chance to walk around the facilities of SSICA (research centre) and acquire a compressive understanding about the processes developed in their pilot plant and the different research activities in matter of meat, fruit and vegetables. The second day, a technical visit to the CHIESA pilot plant (host of the tomato and cereal cascade processes) was performed. The consortium partners were able to see and get an explanation about the current facilities that CHIESA holds as well as to check the layout for the future commissioning of the different Agrimax modules. A walk around the farming activities and the anaerobic digestion infrastructure was also performed along with an explanation about how this biogas is valuable in these facilities.
“This first Technical meeting will help us to define the next steps in this impressive project. A collaborative project is always challenging but in Exergy we are sure about its successful possibilities. As an innovation project, we must be fast defining and selecting the processes and technologies to demonstrate. Therefore, we are in a crucial point that will affect the next stages and the communication channels between the partners involved must be kept fluidly.” – Says Jose Molto, Project Manager and WP Leader in the AgriMax project (set up of the pilot plants) from Exergy Ltd.
“Agrimax project is one of the most exciting and strategic challenges we are facing currently from Exergy. It is impressive the effort developed by the BBI JU to shift Europe towards a more sustainable and circular-based industry. The cooperation between the Agrimax partners has been perfect so far, the entire consortium (29 partners) is engaged to develop the different cascade processes to get different high-value compounds to be turned into different bio-materials, such as biopolymers or food additives, among others. Turning food waste that currently is being discarded or under-valorised into components with high added value it is the next stage to advance towards a bio-based economy. A lot of effort is yet required as well as an optimisation of the processes to make possible the implementation of real cost-efficient solutions. We are confident we are moving forward in the right way.” – Says Rocio Roldan, chemical engineer at Exergy LtdTechnical meeting
Technical Meeting 1

AgroCycle Steering Committee Meeting – Thessaloniki, Greece

Agrocycle Steering Committee has been held in January 17th in Thessaloniki, Greece
The meeting was hosted in the facilities of the Centre for Research & Technology (CERTH), one of the consortium partners and leader of the WP1 and WP4 (Agricultural waste value chain and Agricultural and wastewater exploitation & treatment, respectively). The meeting started with an introduction about the different CERTH institutes, history, basic information about the centre and their role in the Agrocycle project and how they are facing it with their available facilities. After this introduction, the progress and the next steps of all the project’s WPs were presented by the WP Leaders and the involved partners. A brief discussion for the celebration of a meeting/workshop in China in 2018 also took place.
Rocio Roldan as WP2 Leader was in charge of the presentation and discussion about the “Biofuels production”. An overview about the activities related to the production of bioethanol, biobutanol, bio-oil, biomethane and bio-electricity (from microbial fuel cells in collaboration with Nanjing Tech University) from agricultural and forestry residues was shown and what the next steps would be for the development of the activities during the next 20 months as well as the potential synergies with other WPs, especially soil remediation and wastewater treatment. Some attendants showed their inquiries and technical doubts about the different technologies involved throughout the WP.
At the end of the meeting, a technical tour around the CERTH facilities was carried out and Professor Anastasios Karabelas and Dr. Sotiris Patsios explained their different technologies.
“We are really proud of leading such an interesting area as it is the biofuel production from residues as feedstocks. The progress of the Agrocycle project has been impressive during these first 6 months and we expected to obtain relevant results and create synergies inside and outside the consortium. There is no doubt about the necessity of a more efficient agricultural value chain and due to the rapid growth of the planet population, it will be demanded an increasing amount of resources. The exploitation of the residues and wastes from the agricultural, farming and forestry activities to get valuable intermediate or final products, as biofuels, fertilisers or pharmaceutical components, among others, is one of the paths to set a circular and more sustainable future” – Says Rocio Roldan, chemical engineer at Exergy and WP2 Leader in the Agrocycle project.
Steering Committee

Exergy presenting the Waste2Energy initiative at the First Non-Conventional Renewable Energies Forum in Barranquilla, Colombia

Yesterday Fernando Centeno, Head of Research Planning at Exergy presented #waste2energy Medellin.
Colombia is moving towards non-conventional renewable energy sources. According to the Chamber of Large Consumers of Energy and Gas- ANDI (National association of businessmen of Colombia), 56% of the large energy consumers are interested in energy self-generation schemes with non-conventional renewable sources.
Exergy proposes an industrial symbiosis and will open a branch in Colombia soon in collaboration with Ruta N, Medellin which is the Center for Innovation and Business in the city and the British Embassy in Colombia.
“We are excited about this initiative which drives us to accomplish our goal of a Low-Carbon, Sustainable Future. We are also looking forward to presenting the results of the project tomorrow Dec 1st at the Workshop: How to transform municipal solid waste into Energy. The holistic approach we propose is getting the interest of local authorities and organisations that face the current challenges of the waste treatment in Medellin”, says Fernando Centeno and Gustavo Martinez, Project Manager at Exergy.
For more information visit: http://www.andi.com.co/Paginas/Ver_Mas.aspx?CustomID=1228

Exergy are in Colombia for the Waste2Energy Medellin project

Exergy team is in Colombia. From Nov 21 to December 2, Fernando Centeno, Francesco Martinelli, Dave Solberg, and Gustavo Martinez are in Medellin presenting the results of our project Waste2Energy Medellin in cooperation with the British Embassy in Colombia, Ruta N, and the two R&D organisations CIDET and University EIA.
During the visit, the team will be meeting with relevant stakeholders in the city of Medellin as well as attending important events in Colombia such as the 1st Forum of Non-Conventional Renewable Energy Alternatives in Barranquilla on Nov 28 and 29 where Exergy will be presenting the project and Exergy’s methodologies and technologies such as the Exergy based methodology Galileo’s Eye.
On December 2, the Workshop: How to transform municipal solid waste into energy, an exergy vision, will be held in Medellin with the participation of local authorities and important organisations in charge of the waste management as well as environmental institutions.
Waste2Energy is an ambitious project that intends to find solutions for the landfilling in Medellin which causes environmental damage besides high cost for its inhabitants.
For more information about the events visit:

Exergy meets with Sheffield University for collaboration in pyrolysis area

An initial meeting has been held between Exergy’s engineers, Jose Molto and Rocio Roldan, and Dr Yajue Wu and Professor Jim Swithenbank from Sheffield University with the aim to discuss and prepare an initial collaboration between both entities in the area of pyrolysis of biomass.
During the meeting, different critical aspects were discussed in order to accomplish relevant results such as the particle size of the biomass, the type of biomass, residence time, operation mode, etc. as well as the scalability of the process. On the other hand, Professor Swithenbank showed some cases in the past and the success/failure rate of the technologies due to the complex up-scaling and safety factors.

“The development of thermochemical routes, is currently in the demonstration phase like gasification and pyrolysis, is able to bring part of the solutions to shift the use of fossil fuels and move forward a bioeconomy-based society” Says Jose Molto – Sustainable Process Engineer at Exergy Ltd.

Exergy is engaged with the research and the development of engineering for the up-scaling of thermochemical routes to turn biomass into biofuels and energy. This is part of one of the lines within the “Sustainable Process Department” and it has been carried out in some of the Exergy’s projects such as Fuel From Waste (FFW – FP7), where Exergy up-scaled by virtual simulation the process to gasify residues from the olive industry to turn them into liquid and gas fuels (Fischer-Tropsch and synthetic methanation processes); and Agrocycle (H2020), where Exergy is involved in the coordination of the biofuel production and specifically, in charge of the pyrolysis of forestry biomass and the production of energy from microbial fuel cells (MFC).

“There is a rapid and huge increase in the global demand of energy, which is promoted by several factors including the growing in the population worldwide, among others. This will bring different challenges in terms of sustainability and environmental aspects apart from the own supply of energy. The use of lignocellulosic biomass as well as residues like MSW has a big and impressive potential to be the next source of energy and products during the upcoming decades as an alternative for the current fossil sources.” Says Rocio Roldan – Chemical Engineer at Exergy Ltd.

Photo (from right to left): Professor Swithenbank (Sheffield Uni.), Rocio Roldan (Exergy Ltd), Jose Molto (Exergy Ltd) and Dr Yajue Wu (Sheffield Uni)