WP 1: Process automation and cultivation equipment
- Tests on Solaris plants to refine the technical specification of the automatic machineries for cultivation, harvesting and seed treatment.
- Design and implementation of a harvesting machine, prototype equipment for inflorescence drying and an integrated threshing and seed cleaning machine.
The requirements for optimal harvesting and seed treatment equipment were specified and contractors contacted. A harvester ‘Tagliafiori’ was designed and built to our requirements by AgriBlu as a tractor implement powered by the tractor PTO. The test drier was designed in close contact with Sunchem and build by Seed Processing Holland. Vignioli SPA delivered a remarkable machine to perform integrated threshing and seed cleaning.
WP 2: Solaris pilot cultivation
- 6 ha pilot cultivation at the Sunchem Research and Selection Centre Poiana Maggiore in the north of Italy.
- Testing the new harvesting and processing equipment
The most important conclusion of the field trial and consecutive tests with the prototype processing equipment is that we can achieve a harvest of 6 tons of seed per ha after processing. This means the complete chain of cultivation, harvesting, drying, threshing and seed cleaning is functioning at pilot scale.
A comparison of mechanical drying and sun drying was made. Mechanical drying diminishes seed loss, but requires a large energy investment. For this to be feasible from energetic point of view more efficient drying systems have to be used.
The threshing machine ensured satisfactory results with respect to the volumes treated and to the quality of seed cleaning after the treatment. Despite its prototypal nature, the machine produced by Vignoli granted the threshing of 1 ha of materials in just 7-8 working hours.
WP 3: Technical and economic value chain validation
- Technical and economical assessment of Solaris by-products
- Technical and economical evaluation of the full Solaris value chain up to Green diesel (HRD) for use as renewable jet fuel blending component.
- Environmental impact assessment
The harvest of the 2018 season was processed into clean seed and pressed to obtain Toboil. Part of this batch was sent to service provider ENI to test for compliance as feedstock for their proprietary Ecofining®process. The ENI Ecofining®process converts vegetable oil to Hydrotreated Renewable Diesel (HRD). The results from the conversion tests were positive, a yield comparable to palm oil was achieved.
In the evaluation of the complete value chain cultivation cost and processing cost were accounted together with the revenue from side streams and HRD sale. An estimation of an incentive for aviation was used, resulting in a price to be paid as aviation premium for Renewable jet fuel from Solaris oil.
In conjunction with RSB a road to certification was set out for the scale-up of cultivation in Europe. This would not lead to major environmental concerns.
WP 4: Dissemination and commercialization
- Setting up and carrying out the communication and dissemination plan
- Revising the business plan and commercialization strategy
Throughout the project Sunchem pursued a communication and dissemination strategy with a strong personal focus. Many face to face meetings raised awareness and interest in Solaris for it’s biofuel and side-product opportunities. All aspects of the project have been brought about at multiple stakeholders in the biofuel chain. The achievements in terms of agricultural development as well as the current limitations in the aviation market have been discussed.
The commercialisation of Solaris jet fuel is currently hold back by the postponed ASTM accreditation of HRD for aviation use. The commercialisation strategy is also dependent on gouvernemental incentives for biofuel use in aviation. We continue to see good opportunities for Solaris in the current European legislative developments where palm oil is to be replaced by 2030. However currently the certainty of these legislative frameworks is to low to set up a large scale European expansion programme.