ECN brings thermochemical aromatics production to Biorizon

Shared Research Center Biorizon is working with partners to develop aromatics from organic waste

Today TNO, VITO and ECN signed an agreement to collaborate in the Shared Research Center Biorizon, with ECN incorporating its thermochemical research on the production of bio-aromatics within Biorizon. This research center works with industry on the technological development for the production of aromatics from biomass. Aromatics are one of the main building blocks for the chemical industry. By replacing fossil resources with biomass, Biorizon makes a significant contribution to the emergence of a sustainable economy.

Now that ECN has joined the Shared Research Center Biorizon, the entire research area for the development of bio-aromatics is covered. The partners expect this to further boost its appeal to industry.

Roadmap for the development of bio-aromatics

Since 2013 the Dutch TNO and Flemish VITO have been working at the Green Chemistry Campus in Bergen op Zoom on technology for the development of aromatic production from biomass. TNO focuses on aromatics from sugars, as in organic waste. VITO is investigating bio-aromatics from lignin, the substance that gives wood its rigidity. Both TNO and VITO are working on functional aromatics; chemicals with specific properties that retain as much of the inherent functionality of biomass as possible and thereby may lead to a positive business case.

Within the Biorizon roadmap (see above) ECN will focus not only on thermochemical routes for the production of functional aromatics but also on routes for the production of bulk aromatics (BTX: benzene, toluene and xylene) to acquire the optimum synergy with existing industrial installations. The cascading principle is a key guiding factor here:

  1. In the production of biofuels and green gas bulk aromatics are selectively separated via gasification for use as chemical building blocks.
  2. In a second technology line pyrolysis is employed to extract aromatic compounds from biomass and biomass fractions that are then turned into functional aromatics.
  3. In addition, ECN will develop technology for the fractioning of biomass flows and concepts for the energy island in biorefinery processes.

Accelerating biobased innovation

Over the coming years joint research projects like the current Waste2Aromatics, BIO-HArT and SceLiO-4B projects will bring the commercial production of bio-aromatics closer. “This is not only very valuable scientifically but is also a boost to the economy,” says Noord-Brabant deputee Bert Pauli. “More and more companies that are working on making the chemical industry more sustainable are concentrating in the Zeeland, Brabant and Zuid-Holland triangle. The Biobased Delta will generate a lot of jobs, both direct and indirect, for the region in the coming years.”

Profitable and sustainable prospect for the chemical industry

Shared Research Center Biorizon, an initiative of TNO, VITO, ECN and Green Chemistry Campus, is working with partners to develop technologies to produce aromatics from organic waste. This will reduce dependence on petroleum and result in less CO2 emission. By using waste as a resource, Biorizon is helping to foster the transition to a circular economy and offering profitable and sustainable prospects for the chemical industry and its supply chain.



Joop Groen of TNO
Phone: +31 (0)6 51 91 80 96

Karolien Vanbroekhoven of VITO
Phone: +32 (0) 493 51 42 70

Edze Diemer of ECN
Phone: +31 (0)6 24 23 20 47


Vito, press release, 2016-12-02.


Biobased Delta
European Compost Network ECN
Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO)
Green Chemistry Campus
Province of North Brabant
Zeeland Province


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