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A circular economy system for multi-source biomass conversion to added value products

Reference: LIFE18 CCM/GR/001180 | Acronym: LIFE CIRCforBIO



Mitigation actions since the EU 2020 Climate & Energy package was enacted in 2009 have led to greenhouse gases (GHG) r20eductions in most sectors. The exception is road transport, being one of the few sectors where emissions have risen rapidly in recent years. In 2009, the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) introduced a 10% renewable energy target in the transport sector, to be reached by 2020. At the same time, an amendment to the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC) introduced a target of 6% reduction by 2020 in the GHG intensity of fuels used in road transport and non-road mobile machinery.

However, this policy led to the production of substantial amounts of biofuels from food crops and to significant indirect land use change (ILUC), which triggered an increase in global food prices and in food insecurity for the poor. Therefore, the EU indicated that support for food-based biofuels should be phased out and that transport decarbonisation shouldinstead be based on low-emission alternative energy, such as advanced biofuels. These include agro-forestry residues, biowaste from households and the biomass fraction of industrial waste.

In Greece, biofuels where introduced in 2005. So far, however, the only biofuel produced is biodiesel, which is used at a concentration of 7% v/v in automotive diesel. Bioethanol could be a renewable component for gasoline, but to date is not used. Bioethanol will most likely be imported until 2nd generation production technology becomes attractive to local investors. Waste biomass is an abundant source of feedstock for conversion to ethanol and oil as an appropriate raw material for biodiesel production. In Europe approximately 100 million tonnes of biogenic cellulosic material (food and garden waste) is generated each year and about 370 million tonnes of crop residues are produced, of which just one-third is recovered (as animal feed or soil amendment). These figures are based on the White Paper, Availability of cellulosic residues and wastes in the EU (authors: Stephanie Searle and Chris Malins, International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), October 2013 and available at:


The overall aim of the CIRCforBIO project is to achieve high GHG emission savings from the substitution of fossil fuels with advanced biofuels, as well as to promote the implementation of a circular economy concept for biomass. The project will (i) demonstrate an innovative biorefinery concept for the production of bioethanol, using bioproducts from biomass produced from household, catering and industrial food waste, and from agricultural residues, and (ii) create an interactive platform for facilitating the circular economy concept for 2nd generation biomass in Greece.

Specific objectives are to:

  • improve the knowledge base for the proposed biorefinery concept;
  • operate, test and optimise the biorefinery system to minimise energy and raw material consumption, maximise yield and achieve energy autonomy;
  • achieve high quality ethanol from used oil and digestate;
  • achieve high performance of fuel ethanol mixes in motor engines;
  • boost biogas production with the removal of volatile fatty acids and to investigate the potential for their conversion to bioplastics;
  • demonstrate the sustainability and the economic viability of the proposed system, and to define its business requirements;
  • map the available biomass in Greece and to define the optimal supply chain;
  • promote public awareness on climate change mitigation, circular economy concepts and on 2nd generation ethanol, and to promote the acceptance of biobased products from waste and residues;
  • develop a transfer and replication strategy for the Region of Central Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Cyprus;
  • mobilise wide market uptake and replication of the project solutions; and
  • foster jobs and increase capacity building in relevant technologies for increased competitiveness.


    Expected results:

  • a CIRCforBIO biorefinery system with a production capacity of: 30-60 litres of ethanol/day depending on feedstock characteristics and 15-20 kg used oil/day;
  • feedstock management capacity of the bioconversion unit of 1 tonne of biomass per day oquantity of ethanol produced throughout the project duration of around 12 500 litres of ethanol or 210 000 MJ;
  • - quantity of biogas produced throughout the project duration: 250 000 MJ; - more than 100% GHG emission savings generated from the whole biorefinery system; - total amount of waste treated by the biorefinery system: approximately 250 tonnes; - reduction in the consumption of raw materialsdue to approximately 4 500 kg mineral fertilizer substitution;
  • test operation and optimisation of the biorefinery system;
  • study of the physicochemical properties of ethanol-gasoline blends, and of their impact on engine performance and emissions characteristics;
  • development of a digital platform mapping available biomass resources, along with a user guide;
  • development of a business plan and economic feasibility study;
  • development of a replication and transfer strategy, policy proposal and guidelines for ecolabelling leading to the projects sustainability; and
  • reports on the monitoring of performance indicators, Life Cycle Analysis, and socioeconomic impact.

    Reference: LIFE18 CCM/GR/001180
    Acronym: LIFE CIRCforBIO
    Start Date: 01/10/2019
    End Date: 31/05/2023
    Total Eligible Budget: 2,636,693 €
    EU Contribution: 1,450,181 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: National Technical University of Athens
    Legal Status: PAT
    Address: 9 Heroon Polytechniou Street, 15780, Athens, Ellas
    Contact Person: Maria Loizidou
    Email: Send Email
    Website: Visit Website

    LIFE Project Map



    • Renewable energies
    • Waste recycling


    • waste recycling
    • organic waste
    • greenhouse gas
    • biofuel
    • renewable energy
    • traffic emission
    • climate change mitigation


    • COM(2014)15 - Policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 (22.01.2014)
    • Directive 2009/28 - Promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (23.04.2009)


    Name Type
    HELPE(HELLENIC PETROLEUM S.A.), Greece Participant
    SATISTICA(Satistica Ltd.), United Kingdom Participant
    ENVIRECO(Envireco Consulting S.A), Greece Participant
    UNIVR(Università degli Studi di Verona), Italy Participant


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