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Circa Group’s commercial demonstration plant for ‘green’ solvent comes online

By Gerald Ondrey |

The Circa Group (Melbourne, Australia; www.circagroup.com.au) says that its FC5 commercial demonstration plant is now online, paving the way to a regular supply of Circa’s bio-based solvent Cyrene.

A joint venture between Circa and Norwegian pulp and paper company Norske Skog, the FC5 plant is located in Tasmania, Australia. Now successfully commissioned and operated end-to-end, FC5 is starting to produce a steady stream of 99% pure Cyrene, a non-toxic solvent made from certified and renewable cellulose waste.

Cyrene is an alternative to traditional dipolar aprotic solvents, which are used in large volumes — over one million metric tons per year — and are under intense regulatory pressure due their toxicity. In the E.U., Circa is a partner on BBI project ReSolve, which specifically aims to replace NMP — a fossil-derived solvent which has been categorized as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) under European REACH regulation. Safer solvents are urgently required and Cyrene is a bio-based solution with a unique property set, including viscosity, surface tension and polarities. Cyrene is sold worldwide through Circa’s distributors Merck/Sigma Aldrich and Will&Co.

Tony Duncan, CEO and co-founder of Circa Group, said, “Scaling up new technologies is always a challenge. After years of hard work, we’re delighted that FC5 is now online as this allows us to provide Cyrene reliably and in larger quantities for product testing worldwide, particularly in Europe. Circa is now focused on supporting the development of FC6 — a larger, commercial-scale plant.”

Established in 2006, Circa Group converts waste biomass into advanced bio-based chemicals with its proprietary Furacell process (for more information, see Chem. Eng., May 2013, p. 12; www.chemengonline.com/a-step-closer-to-commercialization-for-a-new-green-solvent) at its prototype plant in Tasmania — a joint venture with Norske Skog. Circa’s developing product portfolio includes biosolvents, flavours and biopolymers, including Cyrene. By creating renewable chemicals from cellulose, Circa is extracting value from non-food, waste biomass and addressing a gap in the market by providing bio-based, non-toxic alternatives.


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