VFA to PHA: Decarbonisation – A route to sustainable plastics

IDRIC Project MIP 5.6

University of South Wales
University of Bath
TATA Steel
Welsh Water
Imperial College London

Background

This project will develop biological routes to produce polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) using bioderived volatile fatty acids (VFAs) as a feedstock. PHAs are a naturally occurring biopolymer that can be used to make biodegradable plastics.

Prof Alan Guwy

Alan Guwy

Principal Investigator
University of South Wales

Project Team

University of South Wales:

RJ Jones
L Oram
R Fernandez-Feito
J Massanet-Nicolau

University of Bath:

A Silveira Sbrice Pinto
L McDonald
M McManus

Aim

The proposed research will focus on a method of production that can be deployed at full scale in a cost-effective manner. The microorganisms to be used in this research will be mixed consortia of naturally occurring microorganisms taken from a wastewater treatment plant and adapted towards PHA production. The feedstocks used will be volatile fatty acids such as acetic acid. Importantly, these will be produced from C1 gases such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide from the steel making industry as well as from wastewater biosolids, using methodology and technology developed in the IDRIC Wave One ‘VFA Factory’ project.

More Detail

VFAs
• $600 /tonne with a market size of $17bn p.a. [1]
• Diverse market including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and bioplastics
• Can be converted PHA (7 x as valuable)
• 4,500 mg L -1 VFA solution obtained [2]
• VFAs can be concentrated to over 50g L -1

Next Steps:
• Build a containerised pilot system
• Deploy on a industrial site in the South Wales Cluster
• Integrate with PHA production (IDRIC W2 project funded in partnership with University of Bath and Imperial College London)

COACE Producing VFAs from C1 compounds in blast furnace gas

Next Steps
• Intensify microbial process and increase yields
• Investigate genomics and metabolomics in partnership with Imperial College London
• Evaluate the potential for scale up of pilot scale process using new technologies

LCIA Measuring the impact of deploying VFA Factory Technologies

• A large-scale system was considered (~150 ton d -1 waste biomass).
• VFA production was estimated with a modified kinetics model of anaerobic digestion
• The techno-economic assessment performed using cash-flow analysis, internal rate of return and net present value
• Life cycle assessment was applied with a cradle-to-gate approach using Brightway2
• Reductions of environmental impact was observed in climate change, ozone depletion, acidification, and eutrophication.
• The climate change impact score was reduced by 8 times vs petrochemical VFA Production

Meet the Team

RJ Jones

RJ Jones

University of South Wales

L Oram

L Oram

University of South Wales

R Fernandez-Feito

R Fernandez-Feito

University of South Wales

J Massanet-Nicolau

J Massanet-Nicolau

University of South Wales

A Silveira Sbrice Pinto

A Silveira Sbrice Pinto

University of Bath

L McDonald

L McDonald

University of Bath

M McManus

Prof Marcelle McManus

M McManus

University of Bath

RJ Jones

RJ Jones

University of South Wales

L Oram

L Oram

University of South Wales

R Fernandez-Feito

R Fernandez-Feito

University of South Wales

J Massanet-Nicolau

J Massanet-Nicolau

University of South Wales

A Silveira Sbrice Pinto

A Silveira Sbrice Pinto

University of Bath

L McDonald

L McDonald

University of Bath

M McManus

Prof Marcelle McManus

M McManus

University of Bath

Investigate Further

[1] Jones, R.J., Massanet-Nicolau J., Guwy, A.J., 2021b. A review of carboxylate production and recovery from organic wastes. Bioresource Technology Reports 16 (2021), 100826
[2] Jones, R.J., Massanet-Nicolau J., Fernandez-Feito, R., Dinsdale, R.M., Guwy, A.J., 2021a. Recovery and enhanced yields of volatile fatty acids from a grass fermentation vi in-situ solids separation and electrodialysis. Journal of Cleaner Production 296 (2021) 126430
[3] Jones, R.J., Massanet-Nicolau J., Fernandez-Feito, R., Dinsdale, R.M., Guwy, A.J., 2021c. Fermentative volatile fatty acid production and recovery from grass using a novel combination of solids separation, pervaporation, and electrodialysis technologies. Bioresource Technology 342 (2021) 125926

Associated Outputs