IEA IETS Annex 17: Membrane processes in biorefineries (Working period 2020 - 2022)

Overarching goal of IEA IETS TCP Annex 17 was to strengthen the network of the Austrian membrane and biorefinery landscape. The aim was the optimized use of lignocellulose material in biorefineries by using efficient and sustainable membrane technologies. For this purpose, emerging membrane technologies were evaluated towards applications for biomass components valorization and a guidance on integration possibilities of emerging membrane technologies was developed.

Short Description

Overarching goal of the project IEA IETS TCP Annex 17 was to ensure the optimized use of lignocellulose material in a biorefinery concept by energy- and cost-efficient separation technologies. The pulp and paper industry plays a special role in biorefineries due to the use of wood as a feedstock and its high-volume production. Since this sector is also one of the most energy-intensive industries in Austria, a special focus was placed on it in the course of the project.
The biorefinery approach aims the highest possible value creation in means of cascading raw material utilization. Membrane separation processes combine the advantage of material usage of the components by partly selective separation mechanisms with energy efficiency measures. Of great interest are emerging membrane processes such as forward osmosis (FO), membrane distillation (MD), pervaporation (PV) and liquid membrane permeation (LMP).

Methodologically, the IEA IETS TCP Annex 17 project worked on a decision support for the application of emerging membrane processes in addition to a comprehensive literature review and scientific experiments with MD and LMP on membrane selection, cleaning, fouling and long-term behavior. This is summarized in the form of the guideline "Membranes in Biorefineries" and describes a possible procedure for the evaluation of the use of an emerging membrane process. It leads through a pathway of defining technological criteria and its evaluation with respect to the technologies suitability in specific applications. The selection of suitable pre-treatment or purification strategies is also supported by a methodical approach within the guideline.

The results achieved include a review of the status quo of conventional and emerging membrane processes in biorefinery applications, a consideration of potentials and challenges in pre-treatment, fouling and cleaning, and a guidance on integration possibilities of emerging membrane technologies in the pulp and paper industry. The output of intensive exchange between experts on a national and international level is integrated into the results.

Due to the complexity and inhomogeneity of process- and wastewater in the pulp and paper sector, certain challenges for future membrane applications remain. Research needs around topics such as selectivity, product purification, process stability and flexibility will continue to exist in the future. Specifically, the consortium sees a need for action in the areas of sustainable and advanced membrane development and production, material/manufacturing/modification innovations at technical scale, improvement of selectivity by decoupling transport driving forces, effective combined physical and chemical membrane cleaning protocols and determination of optimal operating conditions in terms of hydrodynamics, and many more.


Austria, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands and France

Contact Address

AEE - Institut für Nachhaltige Technologien (AEE INTEC)
DI Judith Buchmaier
A-8200 Gleisdorf, Feldgasse 19

Technische Universität Graz (TUG)
Institut für Chemische Verfahrenstechnik und Umwelttechnik
Marlene Kienberger
A-8010 Graz, Inffeldgasse 25C