Innovative bioproduct made by ORLEN Południe

The ORLEN Group has launched Poland’s first pilot plant for the production of organic lactic acid using microorganisms. The PLN 10M project is sited at ORLEN Południe’s refinery in Trzebinia. Once the pilot is completed, the plant is to be expanded, with the lactic acid output to be ultimately increased to 5,000 tonnes a year. This would cover more than half of domestic demand for the bioproduct, which has a broad range of modern industrial applications, including in chemical, food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

- We are building capabilities in innovative fields, maximising profits and strengthening our competitive advantage. We were the first in Poland to start making lactic acid using microorganisms. We are creating a bioproduct that is steadily growing in demand around the world. The green project implemented by ORLEN Południe is bound to deliver tangible business value and mark another big step on our way to transform the company into a state-of-the-art biorefinery. It will also support delivery of our strategic objectives geared towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 - said Daniel Obajtek, President of the Management Board of PKN ORLEN.

Lactic acid is widely used in various industries, also as an acidulant and preservative. In the bakery industry, it improves the texture and volume of baked products. Lactic acid and its derivatives find applications in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries as natural moisturising factors. The product can also be used to make eco-friendly materials as an alternative to plastic. Polylactic acid (PLA) made from lactic acid is an input in the manufacture of biodegradable packaging and other products. PLA is applied in construction, engineering, optics and automotive industries. Due to its properties, including transparency, it is also used to make PV solar cells.

In making its lactic acid, ORLEN Południe relies on microorganisms which convert organic substrates into a quality, environmentally-friendly product. The key substrate for the process is molasses, a by-product from sugar production.

Previously, Poland had no domestic sources of lactic acid, and demand from customers across the CEE region had to be covered with imports from Asia and Western Europe. In its pilot phase, the new plant will produce 5 tonnes of lactic acid a year. Its launch marks the first step towards achieving full-scale annual production of up to 5,000 tonnes. As the annual demand for lactic acid in Poland is roughly 8,000 tonnes ORLEN Południe will ultimately cover more than half of domestic demand for the product.

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