Continuous Countercurrent Reactor (CCR) Innovation
The PureVision Technology is the heart of a biorefinery that converts diverse cellulosic feedstocks into pulp, lignin, sugars and extracts, all intermediate materials for creating thousands of biobased products. PureVision collaborators, biorefinery partners and downstream processors will convert the pulp, lignin and sugars into different industrial and consumer products in separate, but integrated biorefinery unit operations.
PureVision’s patented Continuous Countercurrent Reactor or “CCR” and proprietary process chemistries rapidly deconstruct biomass into its essential elements. The CCR utilizes a modified extruder to break down biomass into intermediates for downstream conversion to paper products, chemicals, nutraceuticals, plastics and many other consumer and industrial biobased products. Countercurrent processing of biomass, where biomass moves in the opposite direction (in counterflow) of the reagent liquid, allows for highly effective reactions within the CCR, producing high-quality pulp, lignin and sugars. The technology has enormous versatility and flexibility due to the countless processing variables that can be achieved with countercurrent processing.
The PureVision Technology is feedstock agnostic and PureVision has undertaken research and development with corn stover, wheat straw, triticale straw, sugarcane bagasse, hard wood varieties and industrial hemp.
The PureVision Technology separates the primary constituents of cellulosic biomass into three product streams: a solid cellulose fraction (pulp), lignin and xylose-rich liquor. Because of the high purity of the cellulose fraction, it can be sold as a pulp for papermaking, upgraded to a wide variety of products such as alpha cellulose, nano cellulose and dissolving pulp or hydrolyzed into glucose.
Lignin is the binder found in all plants giving them strength and rigidity, and makes up 15-25% of all biomass. PureVision’s lignin has been tested in both client and 3rd party laboratories, and unlike conventional lignin produced by the pulp & paper industry, it has shown to have outstanding and unique qualities, suitable for producing value-added industrial products including graphene, carbon fibers, plastics, coatings and specialty chemicals.
The sugar-rich (xylose-rich) liquid fraction has shown to be very fermentable and can also be further processed or conditioned and used as the primary raw material for making many industrial and consumer products.
There are three major steps in converting abundant cellulosic biomass into product streams in the emerging biorefining industry. The first step involves growing, harvesting, baling, storing and transporting biomass to a biorefinery. The second step involves the conversion of the biomass into pulp, lignin and sugars using the PureVision Technology. The third step is the conversion of these intermediate biomaterials into industrial and consumer products. The PureVision platform focuses on the second step, leaving steps one and three to others.
PureVision also has the expertise to conduct bench-scale and pilot-scale studies to convert untested biomass feedstock(s) into product streams. Once a specific set of operating conditions is determined, process and economic modeling are conducted by PureVision and 3rd-party engineers.
This unique and patented process is carbon-neutral, reducing the need for fossil inputs while providing green products.
PureVision is one of the only companies in the world with a new, more efficient pulping technology that uses agricultural residues. The PureVision Technology is disruptive because unlike current commercial-scale technologies, it economically and rapidly converts raw biomass into pulp, high value lignin and sugars while substantially reducing environmental impacts.
PureVision has validated the technology for producing pulp using its continuous pilot plant, and along with its engineering partners has completed commercial-scale capital and operating cost estimates. Using a broad range of sensitivity analyses for market pulp prices, PureVision projects its technology can economically produce non-wood market pulp with similar performance characteristics as wood, with lower environmental impacts and at competitive prices. These pulps can be used in all forms of paper products as well as a wide range of other materials including alpha cellulose, dissolving pulps for producing viscose, rayon and cellulose acetate fibers used in both textile and technical applications, fiber for automotive composites, and building products.
PureVision's novel and economical biorefining process offers the following competitive advantages over conventional pulping processes:
- Rapidly converts biomass into pulp in about five minutes compared with traditional pulping technologies that take approximately two hours
- Cost advantages at smaller scale with lower capital and operating costs
- Converts biomass into pulp more economically by creating high-value lignin and sugar co-products
- Produces pulp & paper products from both agricultural residues and woody biomass at lower environmental impacts
Business Model and Development Programs
The foundation of the PureVision business model is licensing specific aspects the PureVision Technology to strategic partners and clients in exchange for a one-time license fee and on-going royalties. This licensing strategy segments major commercial and industrial markets by feedstock type and geographical regions. To implement this strategy, PureVision has developed a step-wise commercialization strategy consisting of technology verification, scale-up and deployment. The four-phase program provides clients and strategic partners with the necessary information to make critical project decisions and achieve commercialization milestones. PureVision has successfully completed several Phase I and Phase II programs and is currently planning its Phase III project incorporating the first 4-ton per day CCR hemp refinery in Colorado. The PureVision commercialization program is summarized below:
Phase IBench-scale proof-of-concept work is carried out at PureVision laboratories to identify the CCR processing conditions to convert small quantities of untested species of biomass into targeted product streams using batch reactors. PureVision has successfully completed six Phase I programs on corncobs, sugarcane bagasse, wheat straw, corn stover, hybrid poplar and industrial hemp.
Phase IIPilot-scale biomass conversion testing using the continuous one-half ton per day CCR began at PureVision laboratories in December 2009. In 2012, PureVision completed construction of its semi-integrated pilot plant. As of June 2015, the company has developed favorable data from converting wheat straw, corn stover, hybrid poplar and industrial hemp into products and has determined favorable preliminary commercial-scale capital and operating cost estimates to scale up and commercialize the PureVision Technology.
Phase IIIPhase III is the commercial demonstration of the PureVision Technology, prior to implementing 250-ton per day commercial-scale biorefineries. To demonstrate commercial applications of the PureVision Technology, PureVision is planning to site its first commercial biorefinery in Colorado. The two-phase project will convert hemp into pulp, lignin, sugars and extracts that will be used to manufacture hemp-based consumer and industrial products. The project will also serve as a scale-up facility to undertake engineering trials and commercial demonstration of different biomass feedstocks including but not limited to producing pulps from other ag residues. The first phase will utilize a 4-ton per day CCR and the second phase will employ a 40-ton per day CCR.
Phase IVPureVision, along with strategic partners and clients, plan to break ground on a commercial-scale biorefinery in 2019-2020 employing a 250-ton per day CCR module. Once demonstrated, PureVision biorefineries of nearly any size can be built by adding CCR modules or “trains”; or be co-located at existing industrial facilities or new biorefinery installations. Compared to conventional pulp mills that generally process over 1,000 tons per day of wood, smaller scale biorefineries (less than 500-ton per day) being proposed by PureVision are modular and more easily co-located at existing industrial facilities.
PureHemp Technology LLC (“PureHemp”) is a 100%-owned PureVision subsidiary devoted to promoting the processing of industrial hemp into intermediate materials to make a myriad of hemp-based products. PureVision has provided PureHemp the exclusive licensing rights to the PureVision Technology specifically for processing hemp.
Recent trends legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp provide new economic opportunities for this highly versatile crop, not grown commercially in the U.S. for over 78 years. Industrial hemp is distinguished from marijuana, which is cultivated for optimizing the psychoactive agent THC, while industrial hemp by law has minimal amounts (< 0.3%) of THC.
Current practices throughout the world of cultivating and harvesting industrial hemp result in significant underutilization of the whole plant. Employing the PureVision Technology will add significant value to the existing industry by converting the whole hemp plant to value-added raw materials and products. These intermediate bio-materials include pulp and separate glucose and xylose sugars from the hemp plant, both of which are used widely in the food, beverage, chemicals and plastics industries. PureHemp lignin may also be suitable for processing into high value chemicals and plastic products.
In 2014, PureHemp began converting industrial hemp into pulp, lignin, sugars and extracts as part of a pre-commercialization program. During the fall harvest of 2015, PureVision acquired larger quantities of hemp to gather additional engineering data, operational experience and establish hemp feedstock supply and processing capabilities. PureHemp is currently processing hemp in Fort Lupton producing pulp, lignin and sugars for engineering and market evaluations. These product streams are being sent out for testing, evaluations and formulations to prospective clients interested in producing hemp-based consumer and industrial products. PureHemp is also manufacturing hemp extracts for clients.