Many commodity products such as medical products, cosmetics and plastics are presently derived from non-sustainable resources. The green shift is a global challenge that requires major technological developments, yet offers exciting opportunities for the frontrunners towards a bio-based economy. Some of the key ingredients for the green shift is access to abundant green energy, more efficient utilization of existing resources and substitution of petroleum-based products with sustainable ones based on renewable resources. Many bacteria and other microbes are able to use industrial side-streams, byproducts and gases such as CO2, CO, H2 and methane as feedstocks while converting them into commercially attractive proteins, fatty acids, polymers, enzymes and other chemicals. The metabolic versatility of microorganisms combined with their rapid growth rate and limited space requirements make industrial production via microbial fermentation a key technology for the transition towards a greener society. Microbial production of commercially relevant volumes of these high value compounds is done in large fermenters, which may have a volume of more than 200 m3. However, going from small-scale laboratory productions to a large-scale commercial business is a challenging task. Technologies that work in the laboratory cannot be directly applied at an industrial scale. Methods must be developed stepwise to ensure that they will be efficient, environmentally and economically sustainable while yielding products of high quality, before introducing them to the market. It is therefore pivotal to develop techniques and methods at an intermediate scale before conducting pilot and subsequently full-scale tests. This calls for the establishment of facilities with the knowhow and equipment required to bridge the gap between the lab bench and the production plant.
The Norwegian National Bioprocessing & Fermentation Centre (NBioC) based in the Stavanger region, Norway, will become a new national hub and state-of-the-art facility to develop, optimize and scale-up fermentation processes. NBioC is being developed to support projects from laboratory scale (1 L) to pre-pilot scale (1500 L). The facility will be able to work with a wide range of sustainable feedstocks including industrial side-streams, by products and waste materials, to develop a more sustainable zero waste circular bioeconomy. The new infrastructure components of NBioC will focus on gas-based fermentation and the facility will be designed for development, optimization and scaling-up processes using CO2, CO, H2 and methane as feedstocks for microorganisms in industrial production. The facility can handle large volumes of different gases under pressure in new buildings in Risavika near Stavanger. In Phase 1 of the development, a unique, state-of-the-art equipment for microbial fermentation will span stepwise size variations from lab scale (1 L) to pilot scale (1500 L).
The project is led by NORCE and is a collaboration between leading Norwegian institutes (NORCE, Sintef, NiBiO and Nofima) and Universities (Tromsø, Bergen and Stavanger), with the support from research and industrial stakeholders. It will be an open access Research and Development infrastructure designed and built to efficiently support implementing Norway’s national strategy in the bio-economy area.
NBioC Phase 1 will establish the Norwegian National Bioprocessing & Fermentation Centre (NBioC): a unique national Research infrastructure and network for fermentation processes and scaling up. The project is led by NORCE and is a collaboration between leading Norwegian institutes (NORCE, SINTEF, NIBIO and Nofima) and Universities (Tromsø, Bergen and Stavanger), with the support from research and industrial stakeholders.
The potential of microorganisms to produce high-value products and biomass is tremendous. In this context, scaling up of fermentation processes is a crucial field of research, development and innovation (RDI) that requires access to a state-of-the-art infrastructure for conducting R&D from laboratory to pilot-scale. NBioC is a national partnership providing an integrated RDI environment on fermentation, linking up existing infrastructures and competence, on biomass treatment, enzyme discovery and biogas production. NBioC will support R&D on (1) sugar-based fermentation using low value biomass and nutrients from side streams as feedstock, and (2) gas-based fermentation using C1 gas from natural gas and biogas sources (CO2, CH4), as a source of carbon for the production of biomass or biochemicals. NBioC is a key-enabler for the emerging bioeconomic value-chain on bioprocessing and fermentation, ranging from basic research (TRL1) to pilot-scale demonstration (TRL5), hence supporting a fast-track to innovation. The infrastructures will enable the development, optimization, scaling-up and piloting for the production of enzymes, protein and/or fatty acids rich biomass, and a wide array of platform chemicals. Such an open access pilot plant would be a first of its kind in Norway and is required to prepare for industrial scale processes.
NBioC-Phase-1 will establish the core facilities of the infrastructure at the partner institutes with a strong focus on the Core Unit at Risavika, Stavanger, Norway.