Urbaser, a leading environmental management company, is is firmly committed to finding solutions that promote the circular economy and is studying how to integrate the transformation of organic waste into new bioproducts for other sectors through the European Urbiofin project.

August 2020, web copy

  • The aim of the European Urbiofin project is to demonstrate the techno-economic and environmental feasibility of transforming the organic fraction of waste into bioproducts with a high industrial value.
  • A biorefinery, installed in Urbaser’s Alfonso Maíllo Innovation Centre in Zaragoza, provides a viable and more sustainable alternative to the current way in which the organic fraction of municipal waste is treated.

The objective of the Urbiofin project, formed by a consortium of 16 partners from 8 European countries, is to demonstrate the techno-economic and environmental viability of generating on a semi-industrial scale different bio-products from 10 tonnes of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste per day.

Using the concept of biorefinery applied to municipal urban solid waste (urban biorefinery), Urbiofin seeks to produce different marketable products as chemical building blocks (bioethanol, volatile fatty acids and biogas), biopolymers (polyhydroxyalkanoates) and additives (bioethylene biochemical products derived from microalgae).

Within the framework of the collaboration agreement signed between CTRUZ, URBASER and the Zaragoza City Council, which supports the strategic lines of the circular economy by participating in projects with different demonstration scales, the installation of a biorefinery in the Innovation Center has been completed Alfonso Maíllo (CIAM), located in Zaragoza.

This project is financed by BBI JU (Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking) and has a budget of € 15M. The consortium will study the entire value chain, from the properties of the waste (raw material) to the application of the products generated.

Europe is moving towards a more efficient use of its resources, for which it relies on technological innovation in the area of sustainable and profitable bioeconomy and, within this objective, biorefineries are considered a key tool.

As Eduardo Fernández, Director of Innovation at Urbaser, points out “The Urbiofin project will offer a new viable and more sustainable scenario compared to the current way in which the organic fraction of waste is recovered in cities.” In this way, Fernández notes that “attending to the principles of the circular economy, products with high added value can be obtained thanks to the ability to transform biomass.”

Urbaser, a prominent partner of the European Urbiofin consortium, has recently completed the installation of a two-phase anaerobic digestion system at its Innovation Centre, which has a 100 m3 hydrolytic digester to produce volatile fatty acids and a 60 m3 methanogenic digester to produce biogas and digestate (to obtain solid fertilizers).

The installed biogas line, which will be operated by the University of Valladolid (project partner), has an anoxic biofiltration system for hydrogen sulfide removal and a 286 m2 photobioreactor in which, from a symbiotic process of microalgae and bacteria, the biogas is converted to biomethane. This line also incorporates new biological technology to eliminate siloxanes (carbon and silicon compounds) that will extend the useful life of cogeneration engines during biogas combustion processes.

The processes involved in the development of these bioproducts will be interconnected so that the facility proves to be a versatile and efficient biorefinery for the organic fraction of waste.

Urbiofin Biorefinery installed at CiAM (Zaragoza). On the left, the biogas upgrading line. On the right, the 2-phase anaerobic digestion system.
Rear view of the facility. Gasometer to regulate biogas and the digesters.