Rice growers commonly deal with rice-straw waste by burning it, emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The production of rice in the European Union in 2012 amounted to 3.05 million tonnes. The amount of straw generated is 0.8 tonnes per tonne of rice produced. Thus, 3.05 million tonnes of rice equates to 2.4 million tones of this waste, resulting in 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 emitted during the burning process.
Tonnes of rice
Tonnes of waste
Tonnes of CO2
Alternatives to rice-straw burning have been researched but none has so far resulted in a low cost, sustainable, practical solution. Any alternative use of the rice straw must be economically viable for rice growers.
The LIFE WALEVA project will demonstrate how the environmental damage from the burning of rice straw can be eliminated, and the waste can be deployed as raw material with added value by the introduction of a new value chain which ends in the production of LEVA (levulinic acid), a chemical monomer that is in demand because of its uses in a multitude of industrial sectors, including pharmaceuticals, biofuels, general chemistry, polymers and food.
The main objective of the project will be to reach the treatment of at least 45% of the total Spanish rice straw residue in the first three years (405.000 Tons/year of waste). Afterwards, though the dissemination plan designed in the LIFE + WALEVA project, we estimate an increase of 65-70% (630.000 Ton/y of waste) in the treated rice straw residue with LIFE + WALEVA’s technology nationwide. At European level, these numbers are even higher impacting different European countries, mainly Italy and Greece (the three principal producers of rice in Europe together with Spain, see figure 4). The amount of rice straw treated with the LIFE + WALEVA’s technology will be around 40% (1.2 million tons/year) over the next five years.
In reference to the reduction of the CO2 emissions estimated in Spain, thanks to the LIFE + WALEVA project, the expected results would be around 688.000 Tons/year of CO2 in the first three years and 1.07 MTon/year of CO2 the next five years. At European level we estimate to reach a reduction of CO2 emission around 2.04 M Ton/y of CO2.
Following the other side of the LIFE + WALEVA project objectives the estimated results are expecting to reach the production of 40.500 ton/year of LEVA in the first 3 years after the end of the project, raising it to 63.000 Ton/y of LEVA in the next five years thanks to the dissemination plan. At European level, we expect to reach the production of 156.000 ton/year of LEVA within the five years after the project’s end.
In conclusion, the technology demonstrated in the LIFE + WALEVA will be positioned as the leading technology used to produce LEVA at European level.
The final result of the project will be to try to achieve high impact in the following industrial sectors: general chemistry, polymers-plastics, biofuels, pharmacy and food, offering them bio-based levulinic acid.