MultiPilot plant

as a driving force for industrial biotechnology

The ground-breaking ceremony for the BioCampus Multipilot plant in Straubing (Germany), for which Bioengineering AG is the supplier of the centerpiece, a fermentation plant, took place on 29.11.2023. Read the detailed report below (or here - German only).

MultiPilot plant

The BioCampus construction project is also a special task for experienced planners and plant engineer

Industrial biotechnology is one of the key technologies for the transformation of the economy towards greater sustainability. In recent years, there have been increasing calls from research and industry for more capacity to scale up new processes. The upcoming start of construction of the BioCampus MultiPilot (BMP), a freely accessible multipurpose demonstration and scaling facility for these very processes in Straubing, will add an important building block to the landscape of providers who can fill this gap. A special kind of construction project awaits those involved until commissioning.

Much has been said about the BioCampus MultiPilot in recent years. Now decisive milestones have been reached - financing and planning permission have been secured, the building, process technology and core equipment contracts have been awarded. The realization of this unusual bioprocess engineering project can now begin. The investor and client for the plant, which is unique in Germany in its planned form, is the Straubing-Sand Port Association. The port subsidiary BioCampus Straubing is responsible for implementation and operation. With a total project volume of almost EUR 90 million, the client can draw on investment funding of EUR 80 million from the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Driving force for industrial biotechnology

The BMP aims to become a catalyst for industrial biotechnology worldwide and offers a wide range of opportunities to support research, development and scale-up activities towards industrial scale. It covers a diverse range of applications, including the production of biofuels, biogenic plastics and materials, bio-based specialty and bulk chemicals, and in particular novel food and feed ingredients. This is made possible by a modular design with pretreatment, fermentation and broad downstream processing, combined with a high degree of structural and process engineering flexibility.

In addition, it will promote a lively ecosystem for knowledge exchange and technology transfer and will be available to users of all kinds at market conditions. Straubing's profile as the Bavarian hub for bioeconomy and industrial biotechnology is thus gaining further depth.

Realization team of specialists

In order to realize these goals in concrete and steel, it takes not only the political backing of the funding body and years of planning, but above all an experienced team of specialists in process technology, building and plant construction. After all, this is not an off-the-shelf plant. With the conclusion of a complex, EU-wide tendering process, this team has now been finalized in October in the form of four contractors. The Swietelsky branch in Regensburg is responsible for the building and the interfaces to the systems and peripherals. Glatt Ingenieurtechnik from Weimar was already involved in the basic engineering and is responsible for the higher-level process technology and plant infrastructure. In the pretreatment module, the experts for natural product extraction from Schrader in Ennigerloh in North Rhine-Westphalia are supplying the digestion technology. Bioengineering from Wald in Switzerland is responsible for the heart of the MultiPilot, the fermentation plant with a maximum volume of 25 m³.

One of the biggest challenges in implementing this state-of-the-art scaling platform, and not just from a process engineering perspective, is the need for flexibility and the open design, which must enable the implementation of a wide range of biotechnological processes for very different customer requirements - because there is no such thing as a fixed process, as is usually the case in plant engineering. It is precisely this challenge that all engineering and plant partners cite as the greatest attraction of working on the BMP. "What is particularly exciting for us is that the plant will convert intermediate and end products on a biogenic basis," explains Lutz Heinzl, Head of Business Unit PPE/PTF at Glatt, "this brings us closer to the sustainability requirements in the industry." For Luzi Sproll, CSO at Bioengineering, and his responsible project manager Christoph Gmeiner, the plant's contribution to the establishment of novel food products and the associated, more sustainable production of food is a further motivation to be involved in the project. Jan Schneider, Managing Director of Schrader, is excited to be able to help shape the implementation of a wide variety of approaches and processes in a single project. Due to his specific view of plant construction, Schneider also sees challenges in the selection of materials that can withstand the operating parameters, especially the high pressure and temperature conditions. Due to the complexity of the project, both in terms of the plant to be realized and the large number of parties involved, efficient project management will also be crucial to the success of the project. Glatt and Bioengineering believe that targeted interface management and close cooperation between the parties involved are essential here.

Using experience, opening up new perspectives

The construction and operation of the BioCampus MultiPilot is not only special due to the novel nature of the project, but also represents the start of a new business segment for the investor Hafen Straubing-Sand and BioCampus Straubing. It is therefore obvious that all the more partners with relevant experience are needed for implementation. "We are currently implementing a multipurpose facility for cell cultures in Switzerland," explains Bioengineering CSO Sproll, "even if, with a volume of 1 m³, it is significantly smaller than the 25 m³ of the BioCampus MultiPilot: we have already implemented facilities of this size in various fields of application in Europe and Asia."

Schrader also speaks of standard in terms of size and field of application: "Our digestion and extraction plants are in use all over the world. The raw materials used could not be more diverse. From leaves and flowers to wood and roots" - good prerequisites, because the BMP should be able to digest any type of lignocellulosic feedstock. A comparatively greater challenge than the plant suppliers is faced by Glatt Ingenieurtechnik, which is responsible for the entire process technology. However, the biotechnology experts at Glatt have developed a profile in the field of industrial biotech and multipurpose plants in recent years, which they are now putting to use in Straubing. Their references include leading involvement in the realization and expansion of the chemical-biotechnological process center in Leuna, the planning of a pilot biorefinery in Thailand, as well as the planning of enzyme plants for c-Lecta in Leipzig and a plant for the production of alternative proteins for the Planetary Group in Switzerland.

Even if the project participants have experience in related project contexts: All of them expect the work on the MultiPilot Plant to provide an impetus for further orders and, in general, for the further development of industrial biotechnology. Sproll and Gmeiner from Bioengineering see a huge global demand for fermentation plant capacity for the food industry: "Through projects like the one in Straubing, we hope that the industry will continue to grow and take another leap forward." Glatt also sees the BMP as just the start of further projects and is building on the Net-Zero goals of many companies: "It is important for us to be involved and to develop further expertise. The BMP is an important reference project in this respect," says Heinzl. Schrader Managing Director Schneider also sees industrial biotechnology as the key to more sustainable industrial solutions and emphasizes that projects such as the BMP will make an essential contribution to scaling up from the laboratory to the market.

Thomas Luck, Director Business Development, MultiPilot Plant, BioCampus Straubing

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