Biorefinery Pilot Research participantsPhD and post-doctoral students lined up in front of the Domsjö Fabriker biorefinery at Örnsköldsvik as the second leg of Biorefinery Pilot Research course was held in September. Photo by courtesy of Björn Alriksson/Sylvia Larsson.

As the first course of the Bio4Energy Graduate School draws to a close this week—with lectures and hands-on experimental workshops for the 18 PhD or post-doctoral students who look set to conclude the course Thursday at Piteå, Sweden—students, organisers and industrial actors involved have given the course thumbs up for offering network opportunities and the possibility to learn by doing.

However, looking to the future, B4E could not rest on its laurels and would, once the course was finished, evaluate and compare that which was achieved with similar post-graduate programmes run by others, said the coordinator of the Biorefinery Pilot Research course This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

"The course has been marked by a willingness to cooperate across the board by all involved, including pilot owners and on-site facilitators. All have given it their best effort", Larsson said;

"The students are fantastically talented and wanting to achieve things. The only thing is that we would need more time to socialise. We have not quite had the time for that since we have been going full speed from early to late".

The course is the first ever of a B4E initiative to fill a void in the Swedish higher education system by offering post-graduate students interested in biorefinery the possibility to experience firsthand what a working day might be like at one of northern Sweden’s biorefinery pilot or demonstration units. For this purpose it entails on-site visits, lectures and, at each of three research and development (R&D) hubs, a brief introduction in using equipment designed to bring various biorefinery applications to scale.

LTU Green Fuels and ETC at Piteå to host Biorefinery Pilot Research part three

Starting in May this year, the course has moved from Umeå and the Röbäcksdalen pilot facilities, to the SP Processum cluster and the Domsjö Fabriker biorefinery at Örnsköldsvik, finally to conclude with three days of lectures and experimental workshops at the B4E partner Energy Technology Centre at Piteå, with stops also at the LTU Green Fuels centre and its world-class biomass gasification demonstration units, formerly owned by the clean technology firm Chemrec.

"I and five of my colleagues at the ETC will be guiding the students. They will have a go at characterising [biomass-based] materials… at two experimental stations and using a drop-tube reactor. They will be in close proximity of the [R&D] infrastructure at the ETC. This will give them a taste of the work which is being carried out here and some hands-on experience, along with a first contact [with ETC staff]. There will also be seminars with lectures", according to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., CEO at the ETC, a ‘research foundation’ or a sort of crossbreed between a non-profit and small firm.

"We see joint activities as being an important part [of the students’ training]. As a student researcher you work in your own niche. When you go onto find a job reality catches up with you and you realise that you need a network [of contacts]", Marklund said.

"By doing this we may be able to get a few of the students to stay in the region and find potential new employees. We see Bio4Energy as something that will last so we want to be doing things properly", he added.

'System Perspective on Bioresources' is next up

Pilot Biorefinery Research, which has been heavy on linking the students up with industrial actors, will be followed in March or April 2014 by a lecture-based course on System Perspective on Bioresources, the course coordinatorThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. confirmed. Chiefly based at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU), just as Lundgren himself, it would give students a situational picture of which ‘bio-resources’–forest and agricultural biomass raw material—were being used and in what quantities, as well as tools for evaluating energy systems, Lundgren said;

"There will be 15 lectures and a great deal of take-home work. We will present the students with tools for conducting system analysis… and have them apply those on their own research. Environmental and policy aspects of bio-resources will be discussed".

As a researcher, "it is important to have a perspective on what one is doing. We will try to give [the students] tools for gaining such a perspective", Lundgren said.

The Graduate School coordinator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. said that so far she was cautiously optimistic that the Biorefinery Pilot Research course had been a success. However, a meeting of the ‘Taskforce’ behind the graduate school had been scheduled to give an appraisal and to lay down next steps.

"The purpose of our meeting Friday is to receive input on what has gone well and what we could do better. We have strength in that all [the B4E R&D] platforms have been part of developing this course. It has given us a helicopter perspective", Rova said.

"We have wanted to give the students as much insight as possible. We have had seven full days [of visits and lectures]. So far we are happy with the outcome, the pilot owners are happy and the students are happy", according to Larsson of SLU who said she knew this from having reviewed written evalutions of the course at each step. 

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