Turning plant residues into revenue – cleantech innovators Nova Pangaea Technologies (NPT) demonstrate Wilton International’s circular economy credentials

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Nova Pangaea Technologies (NPT) is one of a growing number of businesses at Wilton International who are finding smart ways to get more value from natural resources. Using ground-breaking new methods, the REFNOVA® process turns lignocellulosic woody and agricultural plant residues into valuable biocarbons, biopolymers, biochemicals and drop-in for advanced biofuels.

Whether it’s woody residues or non-edible agricultural crop residues, the chances are that cleantech innovators Nova Pangaea can turn your forestry and agriculture residues into something as valuable as it is environmentally friendly.

“We process residue biomass from agricultural or forestry customers,” explains Neil Guilder, Nova Pangaea’s CFO. “That gives us valuable sugars and biocarbons such as biochar and activated carbon. The sugars can be turned into bioethanol, biopolymers and biochemicals, while the biochar can be used for soil enhancers, sustainable solid fuels, or be further processed to activated carbon, used for air and water filtration and green steel.

“The majority of activated carbon is currently produced from coal, so by providing 100% sustainable activated carbon, we eliminate the dependency on fossil-based products, enabling decarbonisation. Likewise, bioethanol offers a “right here, right now” greener alternative to fossil fuels.”

An upward trajectory

Nova Pangaea built its initial demonstration plant at Wilton International, thanks to a solid foundation of grants and investors. The plant was a vital first step, providing the means to show the REFNOVA® technology in action and demonstrate value to future investors and customers.

Today, the business is looking at both long and short-term projects with customers large and small. Some are interested in producing bioethanol as an alternative to fossil-based fuels, and others, mainly forestry and agriculture concerns, are keen to increase the value of their residue by turning it into sustainable products.

Feedstock Flexibility

REFNOVA® is flexible when it comes to processing agricultural and woody feedstocks. The process has been proven on an array of lignocellulosic feedstocks such as wheat straw, sugarcane bagasse, brewers spent grain and various soft and hardwoods.

“There is a phenomenal amount of bagasse produced in the Indian subcontinent and Africa,” says Neil. “It’s currently burned, which adds to carbon issues, or is reconstituted as a relatively low-value product. Our REFNOVA® process means not only it enables our customers to decarbonize, but the material extends the value chain for the customer and creates high-value products.”

How does the REFNOVA® process work?

The REFNOVA® suite of technology offers up to six configurations and takes a modular approach, depending on the customers desired product outputs. It involves a pre-treatment, washing and drying, then further processing through SARP – steam-assisted rapid pyrolysis. The entire process takes minutes and seconds and it’s done continuously, rather than batch. “It’s a patented process with further patents in the process, due to the recent breakthrough in December,” says Neil. “It qualifies as a novel solution in the industry.”

“We can reduce the particle size through our pre-treatment phase to ensure we have the optimal particle size for the process. The entire process takes minutes and seconds versus competitors, is enzyme-free, takes a modular approach and is flexible,” says Neil.

Why Wilton International?

The demonstration plant at Wilton International has been a resounding success for Nova Pangaea, resulting in the company achieving its first commercial sales during 2020. “Wilton International offers a lot of local expertise and a lot of potential for collaboration,” says Neil. “We’ve had benefits in terms of engineering support from maintenance, companies and suppliers. There’s a helpful cluster here. “We’re also very much a green sustainable process, and that links very nicely to lots of other things that are going on in the Teesside area.”

A hub for engineering and commercial expertise

“We’ve moved from the construction phase of physically building our plant to the commercial phase,” says Neil. “It was especially helpful to be at Wilton International during the construction phase because we could benefit from the local skills and experience, we could recruit into the company, and the outsourced engineering installation and parts suppliers that are based here.

“A number of our staff have worked on the Wilton site for years. We’ve been able to hire locally – there’s been no need for relocations, even for the very senior roles.”

“It’s also got everything you need in terms of the power generation, the effluent discharge capability, the transport – and there is a bit of kudos about being on the former ICI site at Wilton International.”

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