CROSS-LIFE – CROtonic acid from Sewage Sludge

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Progetto LIFE [09/2022 - 08/2023]

Progetto LIFE - LIFE21-ENV-IT-CROSS-LIFE (Grant Agreement Number 101074164)

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Sludge produced in the EU by treatment of urban and industrial wastewater (WWTS) is 6 and 4 Mt/y on a dry basis. The organic matter contained in WWTS is enormous and the introduction of novel strategies that can valorize WWTS as feedstock for the synthesis of bio-based chemicals is a win-win approach in terms of circular economy and fossil resource exploitation. The CROSS-LIFE project will play a novel role in the “WWTS-to-chemicals” panorama by converting the C atoms in WWTS into a specific drop-in chemical (crotonic acid, CA) without consuming new resources, and simultaneously decreasing the volume of WWTS to manage at the End-of-Life. Crotonic acid, currently 100% fossil-based, finds application in coating, paint, textile, adhesives, ceramics, and agrochemical industries, with a global production of 60000 t/y and a selling price of 7-10 €/kg. Unigrà, a food company specializing in edible oils and fats, will participate in the project as an industrial WWTS supplier, while AqA, a company in the field of integrated water services, will be involved as a supplier of urban WWTS. Two DEMO plants (1000 t/y of WWTS) will be realized during the project at both companies ‘sites. Unigrà and AqA will benefit from a significant reduction of the volume of WWTS (about 70-80%) and will produce 1.5 t/y of bio-based crotonic acid with a carbon footprint of 4.8 kgCO2eq/kg CA (almost 3-times lower than the carbon footprint of fossil-based crotonic acid, 13.5 kgCO2eq/kg CA). A supplementary credit of 280 kgCO2/t dry WWTS will come from the avoided impacts of producing fossil-based crotonic acid, WWTS dewatering, and transporting a higher amount of WWTS to the final disposal site. Vinavil, one of the main Italian end-user of crotonic acid, will exploit bio-based crotonic acid to produce poly(vinyl acetate-co-crotonic acid) during (and after) the project. From a close-to-market perspective, Vinavil will benefit from the introduction of a novel bio-based monomer into its polymer portfolio.

Unibo Team Leader (Project Coordinator)

Prof. Chiara Samorì

Other Departments

Department of Industrial Chemistry "Toso Montanari" (Prof. Ivano Vassura, Dr. Luca Ciacci)
Department of Management


Department of Chemistry "Giacomo Ciamician"


BPLAS sbrl (IT),

Unigrà srl (IT),

Vinavil spa (IT),

AqA srl (IT),

University of Pavia (IT)

EU Contribution/Budget

 €4,926,601.00 (Requested EU Contribution: €2,945,686.00)