Development Showcase: Champagne-Ardenne, France

Overview through the attributes by Ben Lazarus

In the Digest, we generally look at the what, how, who and why of bioenergy. In this occasional series, we look at another vital topic: Where?

To be an ideal location for bioenergy projects, a site must have an advantaged combination of feedstock, infrastructure for production and distribution. Access to local markets is a plus, incentives help, and vision is a must.

Vision, how does that help? There are projects that have stalled out after years of development – some, because of technology or financing constraints – but all too often, because the site is ideal technically, but the surrounding community lacks engagement. Incentives take too long to negotiate or realize, offtake contracts drag, and permitting can become a nightmare. Local vision drives projects to completion.

In this installment of our occasional series, “Development Showcase,” we look at the French region of Champagne-Ardenne.

Long known for champagne – and, accordingly, having a centuries-old interest in ethanol fermentation, the region is located close to the Paris area and to large economic markets of North Eastern Europe. The region is dominated by lakes, rivers, canals, agricultural land, forests, preserves and vineyards. 26% of its territory is covered with forest and 61% is agricultural area.

ARD and Bazancourt Integrated Biorefinery
The story begins in 1989 with the creation of the Agro-Industry Research & Development company (ARD) in the Champagne region. ARD spearheaded the creation of Champagne’s integrated biorefinery, which is now the premier integrated biorefinery in Europe. The biorefinery is home to a sugar refinery, ethanol refinery, biomass cogeneration plant, bio-based succinic acid plant, bio-based cosmetics production facility and other installations.

ARD continues to serve as the backbone of Champagne’s bioproducts cluster. It invests in new ventures, carries out original research in green biotechnology, and advises the leading players in French agro-industry on how best to diversify into advanced bio-based industry.

Growing Demand in Europe and France
The growth of the advanced biomaterials cluster in Champagne-Ardenne coincides with the growth of bio-based industry in Europe and France. One of the main drivers of this growth is the 20-20-20 renewable energy targets set by the European Union for its 27 member states. These targets call for member states to achieve 20% less greenhouse gas emissions, 20% higher energy efficiency, and 20% renewable energy consumption by 2020. To help achieve these goals, the EU is aiming for biofuels to account for 10% of liquid fuel consumption by 2020.

Biodiesel production has grown to a significant level in Europe in recent years. 9 million tones of biodiesel were produced in 245 European biorefineries in Europe in 2009. Refineries in France and Germany accounted for 50% of biodiesel production. In countries such as Spain and Germany, installed capacity is exceeding production levels (although this is not the case in France). Biodiesel is of great importance in Europe, as the European auto fleet runs primarily on diesel.

Ethanol production has also reach a high level. 3.7 million tons were produced in 2009 in the EU in 70 facilities. Spain, France and Germany account for 66% of production. The major players in the market are Abengoa, Tereos, Verbio and Crop Energies. Production is subsidized by tax exemptions and EU R&D support programs.

France will have one of the fastest growing biofuels markets in Europe in the coming years. France is targeting 15% biofuel out of all liquid fuels by 2020 (the European target is 10%). This means that biofuel producers in France will have to replace 19 million barrels of oil annually with new biofuel production. The French biofuel sector also faces minimum levels for CO2 and feedstock sustainability, meaning next generation technologies will have to be introduced into the French market.

The Cluster
While ARD and the integrated biorefinery in Champagne-Ardenne make up the backbone of the region’s advanced bioproducts cluster, other organizations and companies play major roles. Financing organizations, feedstock producers, sugar and ethanol producers, and government agencies are key components of the bio-based industry eco-system in Champagne.

Government Support
The effort to attract new advanced biofuel, bio-based chemicals, and bioplastics companies into Champagne-Ardenne rests with Champagne-Ardenne Development, the official economic development agency of the Champagne region. The agency has already assisted many top US biofuel and bio-based chemical companies to develop feedstock supply agreements with feedstock suppliers, joint venture agreements with sugar and ethanol refiners, and licensing partnerships with companies in Champagne interested in new green biotechnologies.

The Champagne-Ardenne region is home to a number of agri-business companies and agricultural cooperatives that supply feedstocks to bio-based industry. The team at Champagne-Ardenne Development has surveyed major feedstock producers in Champagne-Ardenne and determined that there is at least 1 million metric tons per year of feedstock available for new project. The breakdown by feedstock is as follows: 520,000 t/y of wood, 250,000 t/y of grain, 200,000 t/y of straw and considerable amounts of sugar, alfalfa, rapeseed and potatoes.

Bio-based industry in France is supported by a number of public sector financing initiatives. These initiatives have proven critical to the growth of the Champagne Bioproducts Cluster. The national French Agency OSEO provides loan guarantees to new large-scale projects. France’s Strategy Fund for Innovation (FSI) is poised to invest equity in new biorefinery projects in Champagne. Finally, private French banks such as Credit Agricole are offering loans for bioindustrial projects.

Strategic Partners
The Champagne region is home to a number of agro-industrial companies that have been targeted by advanced biofuel and bio-based chemical companies for partnership opportunities. Siclae (annual revenue: 1.5 billion €) is the industrial arm of Champagne’s leading grain collector, Champagne Cereales. Siclae is involved in a number of value added activities, including bioenergy production and R&D into new bio-based technologies. Cristal Union (annual revenue: 1.3 billion €) is a sugar beet producer and refiner of sugar beet into sugar and ethanol. Cristal Union is supporting the efforts of ARD to commercialize new bio-based technologies in Champagne-Ardenne. Finally, Unilin (annual revenue: 1.1 billion €) is a wood panel manufacturer that plays a key role in Champagne’s bio-based economy.

Latest Development: Bioamber Bio-based Succinic Acid Production Facility
One of the most recent new entrants into the Champagne-Ardenne bioproducts cluster is Bioamber, a JV of Canada’s DNP Green Technology and Champagne-based ARD. Bioamber is co-located with Champagne’s integrated biorefinery and benefits from the synergies with a glucose refinery and the ethanol refinery.

The commissioning of the Bioamber plant in Champagne marked a milestone in the bio-based chemicals industry. It was the first commercial bio-based succinic acid plant in the world to begin operation. Patrick Piot, General Manager of Bioamber called the project a “major milestone in our development. Renewable succinic acid is no longer an R&D program; it is a commercial reality for the chemical industry.”

The Bioamber plant produces succinic acid from wheat-derived glucose, which is supplied by Champagne Cereales (parent company of Siclae). The glucose is produced onsite at the integrated biorefinery.

Future Developments in Champagne-Ardenne
A number of new projects are planned for the Champagne-Ardenne Bioproducts Cluster. A consortium of French companies is working on the Futurol Cellulosic Ethanol project, which aims to bring large scale cellulosic ethanol production to France. A number of US and European companies are also exploring opportunities in the areas of advanced biofuels, bio-based chemicals, and bioplastics.

Ben Lazarus at American World Services, the US representative of Champagne-Ardenne Development.
phone 202-295-9093.


Biofuels Digest, 2011-05-20.


Abengoa Research
American World Services
BioAmber Inc.
Cristal Union
CropEnergies AG
VERBIO - Vereinigte BioEnergie AG


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