Francesco Gentili coordinates Bio4Energy’s flagship course for student researchers and industry representatives on bringing biomass innovations to scale. Biorefinery Pilot Research is about to kick off in its third edition 27-29 August, with a first stop at the Bio4Energy partner RISE Energy Technology Center (RISE ETC) at Piteå.As of this year,
Biorefinery Pilot Research is the first of two generic courses in the Bio4Energy Graduate School on the Innovative Use of Biomass. It is a model copy of the Bio4Energy Research Environment, with its unique access to research at the fundamental level and all the way up to demonstration of bio-based technologies on a near industrial scale.
A researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Umeå, Gentili is an agronomist specialised in the production of algae in northern climates and its upscaling. Since spring 2018, he is a member of the research and development platform Bio4Energy Wood Pre-processing.
Gentili has been the driving spirit behind laboratory-scale research to cultivate microalgae for the use of feedstock in biofuels and “green” chemicals, and the subsequent setting afoot of pilot facilities at Umeå, Sweden, on the premises of a regional energy utility, Umeå Energi.
“The pilot was a dream that became true in 2012”, Francesco remembers.
“Last year we made 130 kilogrammes of biomass at the pilot. This means we can collaborate with other researchers who use the biomass in their research”, he said.
Gentili is also the new coordinator for Bio4Energy’s course for PhD and postdoctoral researchers, Biorefinery Pilot Research, which attracts participants from all over the world.
He said it was vital to provide education and training for the next generation of researchers and technicians who will not only have the skills to run existing biorefinery operations, but also to develop new technological innovations and take them to scale through the pilot and demonstration stages.
“The way I see it, this course is a tool. I like tools, of the kind that you can use in an engineering workshop. You can adapt the skills you learn to a number of different situations. You can learn to develop existing and new pilots”, Gentili said.
“The needs for upscaling in biorefinery are gigantic. We need to scale up [innovations realised at the laboratory scale] for implementation [in industry], for making biofuels, “green” chemicals and metabolites. We need pilots and infrastructure. We need people who develop pilots and who can make them better and optimise them.
“With a look at our course participant’s list, we see that there are people attending from other parts of Sweden and all over the world. This is very important. They bring new thoughts and ideas… that broaden our perspective".
‘We should promote northern Sweden as a region of excellence for upscaling’
Gentili said he thinks more needs to be done to promote northern Sweden as a region of excellence when it comes to the development of biorefinery innovations. He starts to enumerate the hubs in the integrated pilot and demonstration park that lines the coast to the north and east of Sweden, from Piteå to Örnsköldsvik;
“Look at the achievements of RISE ETC, Domsjö and the torrefaction. We could reach out in, not only Scandinavia, but further south, to other countries. People in Sweden are rather shy. We have a fantastic possibility!”
Contacts for Biorefinery Pilot Research 2018
Ulrika Rova, Coordinator for the Bio4Energy Graduate School, Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies
Francesco Gentili, Course Coordinator, Bio4Energy Wood Pre-processing
Esbjörn Pettersson, RISE Energy Technology Center/Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies
Björn Alriksson, RISE Processum/Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies
Anders Nordin, BioEndev, Bio4Energy Wood Pre-processing
Hans Hellsmark, Lecturer on Innovation and National and International Context, Chalmers University of Technology