Good Marks to Bio4Energy for Leadership, R&D, Outreach, in Evaluation by Swedish Authorities

Ibrahim-Baylan-visit-141125Bio4Energy is being evaluated for its first five years a biorefinery research environment. The Swedish government is expected to decide whether to grant Bio4Energy a second five-year operational period, 2016-2021. Sweden's energy minister, Ibrahim Baylan (centre), came to visit Bio4Energy at Umeå in November 2014. Photo by Mattias Petterson.Bio4Energy has received good marks for leadership, research and development and outreach, in an evaluation by Swedish authorities aided by an international panel of experts. The evaluation essentially targets the scientific quality and "strategic" leadership of the research environment in its first five years in operation, 2010-2015. It feeds in to an assessment of Bio4Energy by its main sponsor, the Swedish government, which is expected to decide by the end of the year whether to grant funding for second operational period for the research environment in 2016-2021.

In total, 43 government-funded "strategic" research environments (SREs) were evaluated by five government bodies and an encompassing evaluation report was forwarded to the Swedish government 30 April. It is understood that Bio4Energy was in the top third of research environments which "currently meet the objective of achieving the highest international standard", according to the report entitled Evaluation of the Strategic Research Area Initiative 2010-2014.

"We have received a very good evaluation. We are in full swing with our activities and now we will focus on becoming even better", said Umeå University deputy vice-chancellor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., who also chairs the Bio4Energy Board. This latter takes decisions on research and development strategy on behalf of the research environment and on financial matters.

A look at the fine print of the evaluation report reveals that the research output of Bio4Energy is "[in] the frontline", which was the highest possible level of rating given by the panel of experts, the two other two levels being "reaching international standards" and "not convincing so far".

Read more: Good Marks to Bio4Energy for Leadership, R&D, Outreach, in Evaluation by Swedish Authorities

Health & Environmental Effects of Biomass Burning Focus of Congress in Sweden

PIC2015 logoAn important aspect of providing methods and tools for conducting efficient and sustainable biorefinery—such as Bio4Energy does—is to keep the environmental and health impacts of biomass-based technologies in check.

One such example is emissions from biomass combustion. To give a snapshot of the latest in that line of research, scientists at Umeå University have taken on the organisation of the recurrent International Congress on Combustion By-products and their Health Effects, to be held at Umeå 14-17 June 2015.

The scope of the congress traditionally includes both direct biomass burning and combustion as a means to turn biomass into biofuel for automotive transport, and highlights this year include prevention of the formation and emission of halogenated persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and secondary emissons of intermediate chemicals.

Conference chair This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. said that in a societal transition from using fossil oil as a base for fuels and materials to biomass from wood and other sources, it was important to make sure new environmental problems were not created by the new biofuel combustion processes being invented.

"Here we are talking about by-products of combustion and environmental effects and health effects of these by-products. They can be different types of compounds and structures. So there is quite some research on soot and particles, some on ash and metals and organic environmental pollutants. So this is quite a broad conference [content wise] in that it discusses a range of aspects of combustion and [its] environmental and health effects".

Read more: Health & Environmental Effects of Biomass Burning Focus of Congress in Sweden

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


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