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.