Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Polymers and fuels from animal residues

Project Acronym: ANIMPOL

Title of project: Biotechnological conversion of carbon containing wastes for eco-efficient production of high added value products

Research area: Innovative biotechnology approaches as eco-efficient alternative to industrial processes

Contract No: 245084

EU Contribution: 2 895 660 EURO

Start date: 01-01-2010

Duration: 36 Months


This project aims to utilise waste streams from slaughterhouses, the animal rendering industry and waste fractions from conventional biodiesel manufacture for the production of improved biodiesel (fatty acid methyl esters - FAME) and biodegradable high-value polymeric materials (polyhydroxyalkanoates - PHAs).

According to the European Biodiesel Board, the available saturated biodiesel fraction in Europe amounts to annually 50.000 tons; the entire amounts of animal lipids from the slaughtering process can be quantified with more than 500.000 tons per year. From the saturated biodiesel fraction, the amount of PHA biopolyesters that can theoretically be produced amounts to approximately 35.000 tons annually, if calculated with a conversion yield of 0.7 g/g. The surplus glycerol phase (CGP) from the biodiesel production can be quantified for Europe with annually 265.000 metric tons (estimations for 2008; Oleoline glycerine market report). If this glycerol is applied for production of catalytically active biomass as foreseen in the project, one can expect 0.4 to 0.5 g biomass per g of glycerol.

The PHAs will be produced from the methyl esters of saturated fatty acids that can have a negative effect on the properties of biodiesel when used as an alternative motor fuel. Various techniques including microbiology, genetics, biotechnology, chemical engineering and polymer chemistry will be used to produce these high-value biopolymers. These studies will be supported by process development, life cycle analysis and feasibility studies covering use of and marketing of the final products. Involving close cooperation between academic and industrial partners, the project aims to solve local waste disposal problems affecting the entire EU.

Expected Impact

The impacts of these project activities can be considered from three aspects. Assuming the technological activities, the project could have a significant impact in solving local waste problems affecting the entire EU. Production of biodiesel and polymers will have to compete with alternative treatments such as composting, anaerobic digestion and extraction of other added-value products. The actual impact will thus depend on the relative investment required and the economic value of the products. The production of biodiesel is not dissimilar from existing systems using recovered waste fats and oil. Hence, actual impact will depend on the development of the polymeric materials, which in turn depends on success in generating the PHAs at reasonable cost and then devising products and establishing new markets where they may be distributed. Due to such uncertainties at several levels the overall impact on European animal waste processing is not guaranteed. On the other hand, the project may be expected to generate interesting results leading to various commercial opportunities, possibly favouring especially the development of niche markets.

Expected Results

The project should results in cost-efficient and sound alternative products for the polymer industry based on an integrated industrial process that will also produce biodiesel of improved quality. A fermentation process will be developed to convert saturated fatty acid methyl esters to PHAs, followed by an environmentally safe and efficient downstream process resulting in various forms of PHAs that will be characterized in terms of their chemical, biological, physical and mechanical properties. The use of these materials in preparation of blends and composites with selected conventional polymeric materials as well as inorganic and/or organic fillers will result in novel environmentally benign biodegradable plastics. Results from feasibility and marketing studies will suggest specific uses for these products.

Website of project:


Coordinator: Martin Koller,

Organisation: Technische Universitaet Graz, Austria,


Università Degli Studi Di Padova, Italy,

University of Zagreb - Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology, Croatia,

Universitaet Graz, Austria,

Argent Energy (UK) Limited, UK,

Termoplast, Italy,

Università di Pisa, Italy,

Centrum Materialow Polimerowych Iweglowych Polska Akademia Nauk*Cmpiw Pan, Poland,

Kemijski Institut, Slovenia,

Argus Umweltbiotechnologie Gmbh, Germany,

Ulrike Reistenhofer Gmbh, Austria