Bio4Energy Students Analyse Pilot Facilities in Sharpened Biorefinery Pilot Research Course

Bio4Energy Graduate School: Final Seminar Biorefinery Pilot Research 2015 from Bio4Energy on Vimeo.

The contents of the key generic course in the Bio4Energy Graduate School, Biorefinery Pilot Research (BPR), have been made considerably sharper in terms of training students in considering each biorefinery pilot or demonstration facility in the Bio4Energy cluster as an innovation system.

Or so it would seem as the second edition of BPR concluded with a final seminar where PhD student researchers in Bio4Energy presented encompassing reports describing and analysing the activities of seven entities which host pilot and demonstration units run by Bio4Energy researchers or, in one case, by its strategic partners.

"We have improved the course compared with the previous year [and] given it a focus on innovation systems. The students have had to work harder and done better. There has been the possibility to learn more", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., BPR course coordinator and an associate professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Umeå, Sweden.

Biorefinery Pilot Research is designed to introduce students at the PhD level to the hands-on work of developing biorefinery technologies on site at pilot and demonstration facilities which are part of the Bio4Energy research environment. Bio4Energy deals with biochemical and thermochemical conversion of biomass to fuels, chemicals and new materials from woody raw materials and organic waste. It also designs various options for the pre-treatment or pre-processing of biomass by means for instance of catalysis, separation, fractionation or torrefaction.

This introduction mainly takes place on site so that students have the possibility to gain an appreciation of the actual handling of pilot equipment and to have contacts with the engineers and other technicians running the facilities and, by extension, contacts in industry and academia, and at research institutes.

Read more: Bio4Energy Students Analyse Pilot Facilities in Sharpened Biorefinery Pilot Research Course

This Spring in Bio4Energy

J-P-Mikkola-Lab-UmUCatalysis and separation research goes on at the Umeå University laboratories of Jyri-Pekka Mikkola of Bio4Energy. Here is a snapshot from today's work by professor Mikkola and one of three freshly arrived ERASMUS students from Italy. Photo by Bio4Energy.Bio4Energy is lucky to have fantastic researchers. Having barely concluded the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting—which international conference this year had a focus on biorefinery processes—and received the thumbs up from several speakers and others among its 182 participants, they are back in their laboratories and lecture halls inventing new fuels, chemicals and materials from bio-based feedstock, or teaching Bio4Energy's students how to do the same.

Then, in June they will be hosting the 14th International Congress on Combustion by-products and Their Health Effects, PIC 2015, also at Umeå, Sweden, 14-17 June. Shortly after a special issue of the proceedings of the Impacts of Fuel Quality on Power Production conference in Utah, U.S.A., in October 2014, will be published in which scientists on the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform will have no less than three articles.

Last but not least, Bio4Energy is looking forward to acknowledging the work of its PhD students who will be wrapping up encompassing reports on the innovation systems attached to the biorefinery pilot and demonstration facilities which are part of the Bio4Energy research environment. The students in question are enrolled in the Bio4Energy Graduate School and about to finish the very hands-on study course Biorefinery Pilot Research.

With this Bio4Energy would like to wish its researchers, members of the industrial network and stakeholders a Happy Easter! Stay in touch.

Biofuel from Algae, Six Decades of Photosynthesis Research at UREM 2015 Conference, Day 3

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Bioethanol may be successfully produced from genetically engineered algae, carbon dioxide and sunlight, Kerstin Baier of Algenol Biofuel Germany told the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting on its third and final day 27 March. In fact, 4,000 photo bioreactors taking up two acres of land were turning out the very thing at the company’s "integrated" biorefinery at Fort Myers in Florida, U.S.A.. The step to commercialisation would be taken in 2017, according to Baier. Advantages of the technology was its low fresh water consumption, the "highly energy-efficient" technology used and that fact that productive strains of cyanobateria (a type of blue-green algae) were used, she said.

An assessment by a constellation of industrial companies, research institutes and academia has shown that it would be economically feasible to replace parts of a chemical industry cluster at petro chemically-based operations with bio-based ditto. The plastic making companies, located at Stenungssund in the south and west of Sweden, thus could continue using their current infrastructure, but be sourced with woody feedstock for some of their processes and involve available technology, be drop-in solutions and concern bulk processes. This “Forest Chemistry” project was unique in Sweden since it had brought the chemical industry together with environmental chemistry scientists and social science researchers, in an attempt to assess the feasibility of lessening the industry’s reliance on products refined from fossil oil.

Last but not least, Pierre Joliot, 61 years a photosynthesis researcher and grandchild of the twice Nobel Prize winning physicist Marie Curie, delivered a few lessons on the tribulations of scientific research and described some highlights of his career.

"Our jobs as scientists is to find something new", professor Joliot said. Perhaps not by means of large breakthroughs but by "making a lot of small discoveries. I think we are all able to do this as scientists.

"One must have a right of failure in basic research, otherwise one stays in the dogma… A certain degree of ignorance is needed", he said.

Joliot said he had started his research career in the 1950s and, apart from a short stint in the U.S.A. in the 60s, worked for most of it from his native country, France. Among other things he had carried out functional studies on oxygen evolution, long-distance energy transfer and what he termed the “charge accumulation process”, he told participants on the last day of UREM 2015.

Biochemical, Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass in Focus at UREM 2015 Conference, Day Two


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Today the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting learned that while biomass gasification for the purpose of making fuels and chemicals would be used to produce biofuel in the Nordic countries, and preferably dimethyl ether (bioDME), countries in southern Europe might prefer to use it to produce heat. Italy and Spain were mentioned as countries where the technology might be taken into use. Alberto Gómez-Barea of the University of Seville, Spain, talked about this and described different types of biomass gasification technology.

Sweden's only biorefinery, Domsjö Fabriker at Örnsköldsvik, had been moving towards making products other than automotive fuel, according to company representative Björn Edström. While he did not provide details on the types of products being promoted, he did say that they could be made from biorefinery residual streams or lignin products.

Ionic liquids could be an alternative to the harsh pre-treatment methods currently in use by industry for breaking down woody materials into their components, Bio4Energy researcher Sandra Winestrand suggested. She described a collaboration between scientists in northern Sweden working on biomass-based processes, on catalytic and biochemical conversion processes, respectively. The group had obtained promising results for softwood (e.g. coniferous wood) using acetate-based ionic liquids, she said. There were comments from the audience to the effect that the price of ionic liquids, which some participants had mentioned as an obstacle, was coming down. Winestrand, who is also an employee of the Swedish industrial group Billerud-Kornäs, added that research was ongoing to find ways to reduce the price of ionic liquids and of using them in industrial-scale processes.

Jonathan Fagerström of Umeå University (UmU) described work designed to control the emissions of particulate matter from biomass conversion processes. Researchers from UmU and the Luleå University of Technology, part of Bio4Energy, were working together and looking in particular at the formation of potassium as a decisive element in the emission profile of biomass combustion and gasification.

UREM 2015 Renewable Energy Conference Kicked off March 25 in Sweden

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The Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting at Umeå, Sweden, kicked off its first conference day 25 March. Some highlights of the morning session were a talk by Thomas B. Johansson of the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University on the role of renewable energy for a sustainable future. Johansson led the Swedish government's official investigation, concluded late 2013, on how the country should go about achieving a fossil fuel-free transport fleet by 2030.

Talks on various aspects of renewable feedstock and advanced biomass fuels included a heated one by Michael Bradley on the importance of research for the purpose of designing appropriate procedures for biomass handling and flow in the process of converting biomass to fuels, materials and chemicals. Bradley is the director of the Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling Technology at the University of Greenwich in the UK. He was followed by Bengt "Nippe" Hylander of Swedish consultancy ÅF Industry, who outlined new opportunities in developing fuels, chemicals and materials from biomass from wood, woody residue and organic waste.

Björn Sundberg of Stora Enso, previously a professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and a researcher in Bio4Energy, gave UREM 2015 a situational picture of current use of and views and policies on transgenic technology for the purpose of speeding the growth and pest resistance of trees used as feedstock in biorefinery processes. He said that the use of genetically modified organisms was "extremely controversial", especially in Europe, but needed not necessarily be since the European Union had said in reports based on science that the technology was no more risky than those used in traditional tree breeding. In fact, it could be useful when the purpose was to grow more trees faster without claiming more land for it than was already used for tree plantations. It was essential however to "do it right" and applying GM was only one tool in the toolbox: Traditional tree breeding would prevail over the next ten years and that was also where the greatest advances would take place, Sundberg predicted.

Finally, Mikko Mäkelä of the SLU spoke on the hydrothermal treatment of lignocellulosic biomass for solid fuel applications

Latest Research on Biomass for Fuels, Chemicals, Materials Discussed at Conference in Sweden

ORG-UREM-2015Biomass and solar fuels researchers in northern Sweden are organising an international conference on the latest biorefinery and photosynthesis research. From left: Johannes Messinger, Per Gardeström, Carlos Martín, Thomas Wågberg and Christoffer Boman. Photo by Bio4Energy.What is needed for our societies to transition to a "green" economy? Some might say "renewable energy", "more research and innovation" or "targeted political incentives". At the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting (UREM) 2015, 25-27 March, leading researchers and business people will gather at Umeå, Sweden, to give the international conference a snapshot of the forefront in research and development geared at making new biofuels, "green" chemicals and bio-based materials.

"Many things are needed for a green transition. UREM has always had a broad spectre of presentations on renewable energy research, but this year we have chosen to focus on [research which mirrors] the Bio4Energy project", said Per Gardeström, scientific coordinator at the Chemical Biological Center at Umeå University, which will host the conference.

"Here in the North we have a great forest resource that we must use".

For the last five years the research environment Bio4Energy has worked to draw together scientists active in the fields developing tools and methods for making biofuels, "green" chemicals and materials based on raw materials from the forest or organic waste. Umeå University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and the Luleå University of Technology are part of the constellation, which also includes a couple of research institutes and an extensive network of industrial companies.

"For Umeå University and the SLU sustainability research is Number One. We have great strength in our research on forests, both when it comes to management, growth and use. We work to decrease the use of fossil fuels", according to Marianne Sommarin, Umeå University vice chancellor.

Read more: Latest Research on Biomass for Fuels, Chemicals, Materials Discussed at Conference in Sweden

Forest Biofuels: High Efficiency Demonstrated in Biomass-to-‘syngas’ Experiments

Mangus-Marklund Fredrik-WeilandBio4Energy researchers Magnus Marklund and Fredrik Weiland at the SP Energy Technology Center at Piteå produced a synthesis gas under pilot-scale conditions which retained 76 per cent of the chemical energy of the biomass. The gas is pure enough to be turned directly into biofuel with for use automotive transport, without adding an additional proces step for gas cleaning. Photo by Leif Nyberg.Researchers in Bio4Energy have shown in pilot-scale experiments that pressurised entrained-flow gasification may be used to transform biomass from forestry residue to a synthesis gas rich in chemical energy. This is good news for the researchers and their industrial partners who have been developing the method for the purpose of making biofuel with a low environmental footprint and high energy efficiency. 

If the process proves to be as efficient in a future scale up to commercial levels, it could also be good news for the forestry industry at large, looking to use their residual fibre-based process streams in new products. Moreover, it could make forestry residue competitive with black coal in its use in commercial gasification process for making fuels and chemicals, in terms of cold-gas efficiency. This latter is a measure used by researchers of the chemical energy left in the synthesis gas resulting form the gasification process.

The new findings result from two years' worth of research and development work by Bio4Energy scientists and technicians at the SP Energy Technology Center at Piteå (SP ETC) and the Luleå University of Technology (LTU), both in northern Sweden and leaders in their field.

"It is a milestone in our research. We are very proud with what we have achieved so far", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., CEO at the SP ETC.

"The next step in our applied research will be to optimise the different subsystems in the process, which will render the technology even more viable", Marklund added.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., a student researcher defending his PhD thesis 26 February at the LTU, has been at the helm of the work to lay bare the parameters of the gasification process itself and looking especially at the high-temperature entrained-flow gasification method in a pilot-scale gasifier at the premises of the SP ETC, in cooperation with Swedish industrial partners IVAB, Biogreen, Sveaskog and Smurfit Kappa. As much as 76 per cent of the chemical energy in the biomass feedstock—saw dust pellets, in this case—were retained in the synthesis gas, Weiland and his colleagues found.

Read more: Forest Biofuels: High Efficiency Demonstrated in Biomass-to-‘syngas’ Experiments

Biorefinery Development à la Bio4Energy Focus of Umeå Renewable Energy Conference

UREM 2015 - Announcement of Conference from Bio4Energy on Vimeo. The Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting 2015, 25-27 March at Umeå, Sweden, has a focus on biorefinery processes. Video by Bio4Energy.The Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting—which is in fact an annual conference, held in northern Sweden and traditionally attended mostly by researchers and industry representatives from Europe and the Americas—this year will give an overview of the latest research on biorefinery processes based on woody feedstock or organic waste.

This UREM 2015 approach à la Bio4Energy was appropriate, said organisers This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.of Bio4Energy, because there were many exciting developments underway in biofuel and "green" chemical production, and because the research environment Bio4Energy itself was coming up to the end of its first five years in operation.

The conference will open 25 March with talks by the mayor of Umeå and then by the man who shepherded the Swedish government investigation on fossil-fuel free transport fleet by 2030 to its conclusion last year. The three days of talks, poster viewing and social events will culminate in a closing address on "science and philosophy", said Boman, who is affiliated with Umeå University (UmU), just as his Bio4Energy colleague Martín.

Other types of renewable energy than that implied in biorefinery process will also be on the agenda, such as solar fuels and artificial photosynthesis. As is tradition, UREM has an organising committee made up of representatives of the Chemical-biological Centre at UmU and of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, both of which universities are members of Bio4Energy.

Sessions on biorefinery process will include:

  •        Renewable Feedstock and Advanced Biomass Fuels;
  •        System Analysis and Bioeconomy, and;
  •        Biochemical and Thermochemical Conversion of biomass to fuels, materials and chemicals.

Read more: Biorefinery Development à la Bio4Energy Focus of Umeå Renewable Energy Conference


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