Jocke-Lundgren Rikard-Gebart SFC-change-of-leadership 514Joakim Lundgren (left) has taken over the leadership of the Swedish Centre for Biomass Gasification from Rikard Gebart. Both are Bio4Energy researchers at the Luleå University of Technology. Photo by Leif Nyberg.

The Swedish Centre for Biomass Gasification (SFC)—in which Bio4Energy’s ‘little sister’ Bio4Gasification is a research node—has a new leader since last month. So does the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform, which crew develops new knowledge on the nuts and bolts of entrained-flow gasification of biomass for the production of biofuels and “green” chemicals. In fact, even Bio4Gasification has a new person at its helm.

Reasons for change

The ball went rolling because one highly talented professor had too much to do, leading both the SFC, the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform and—after a successful round of applications for funding—the newish Biosyngas Programme, which delivers research and development (R&D) on behalf of the LTU Green Fuels Centre at Piteå, Sweden.

So 1 May This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) formally handed over the leadership of the SFC to another Bio4Energy researcher: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., a leading figure on system analysis and process integration in the research environment, also acting as Bio4Energy’s coordinator in the Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels or the f3 Centre, as it is called.Rainer-Backman DME-production-at-Pitea 614Rainer Backman of Umeå University takes over the leadership of the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform from this month. Photo by courtesy of Rainer Backman.

Around the same time a key PI on the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.of Umeå University, took over the role as the leader of the platform. Professor Backman has about 30 years of experience working in the academy and industry on various aspects of biomass gasification.

Finally, the researcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., who was recruited into the research environment in 2011 and has been proving himself both in and outside the research laboratory even since, replaced This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as the Bio4Gasification chief coordinator. Wiinikka is a Bio4Energy researcher at the Energy Technology Centre at Piteå, a research foundation that acts as a link to industry and which has unique pilot facilities which allow scientists in the cluster to develop technology for producing synthetic gas or ready-made biofuel from forestry residue or wood.

Impact on Bio4Energy R&D development

"In my opinion all these people [are] a very good choice. I am very happy that all these guys in this case said 'yes' to jump into this. They are good coordinators, good people; both good soft and other skills. So I am very happy about this", said Bio4Energy’s vice director This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., professor at the LTU.

"Take [the] example of Rainer Backman, I think he has more than 30 years of experience in the area. Both in Kentaro-Umeki Web-25614Kentaro Umeki, an up-and-coming researcher in Bio4Energy at the Luleå University of Technology, is the new coordinator of the Bio4Energy offshoot Bio4Gasification. Photo by Leif Nyberg.research and with different researchers and with different companies", said professor Öhman who is one of three PIs coordinating the work of the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform;

"We are also very glad that Joakim [Lundgren] wanted to take over as the SFC coordinator. I know Joakim very well and I know he is a perfect coordinator. We are also happy that Kentaro… Umeki [will] take over Bio4Gasification".

Faith of the SFC

Joakim Lundgren too seemed pleased about his new appointment, stepping in as the director during the second mandate of the SFC, spanning the years 2013 to 2017.

"I have participated in all aspects of [the SFC this year] in parallel to Rikard [Gebart], in the management meetings, the programme office and the summer school. It’s gone well", said Lundgren, adding however that, "Rikard is incredibly talented and not easy to replace".

The associate professor said he would be bringing a system’s perspective to research in the SFC and that he planned to try to investigate whether its "lowest-level" quality might be further improved.

"The research is of very high quality already, but there are always weaknesses. I want to find those weak spots", Lundgren said.

The SFC is an umbrella organisation for the gasification industry and has three research nodes serving it, aimed at furthering R&D on biomass gasification. The nodes are coordinated respectively by the Chalmers University of Technology (Chalmers) at Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city; the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm and; researchers on the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform:

  •          Indirect gasification – Chalmers
  •          Direct gasification – KTH
  •          Entrained-flow gasification – Bio4Gasification/Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform

On the whole, however, Lundgren would be "driving along the tracks that that Rikard has laid", he said, and to follow the current plans for R&D until 2017 in each of the three research nodes. Two upcoming events, the SFC Summer School 18-22 August and the annual Programme Conference in February 2015, would be his focal points during the coming months.


Thermal Conversion of Biomass in Bio4Energy from Bio4Energy on Vimeo.

 … and Bio4Energy’s Thermochemical Platform

Rainer Backman too said he would follow plans for R&D until 2017 which will guide the work of some 30 researchers on the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform.

"Our task has been to produce new knowledge. I think we have succeeded in doing that. This is basic research but all technical research is also applied. We must always keep the industrial application of what we produce in mind. We look at reaction times and information about how we should build models [and infrastructure] and what materials are needed", according to professor Backman.

"We have good contacts with industry and have to be sensitive to their wishes when we build the infrastructure", he added;

"With Bio4Energy we have been able to make long-term plans. This is altogether necessary when one tries to formulate knew knowledge. We struggle every day with experimental problems but thanks to [the funding from] Bio4Energy we have been able to adapt. Bio4Energy has been very important for the success of our work.

"The spread of researchers [specialised in R&D on thermal conversion] over several platforms has been very successful. This is part of the Bio4Energy concept and we like it very much.

"The critical mass [of staff and infrastructure] of Bio4Energy is important. Researchers in the cluster are keen to be identified as being a part of Bio4Gasification which is the same as the Thermochemical Platform".

Bio4Gasfication and its new leader

Modest and hands on the Japanese-born Umeki, postdoctoral research fellow at the LTU, said his job would be to "organise the research work and some meetings.

"I think it is quite challenging work and complicated administration. But also quite rewarding. I can see the whole picture of the research and have lots of contacts with industry", Umeki said;

"We can solve the problems of the application [in industry] by using a fundamental approach. We have to understand the measurement technology, as well as the modeling and the assimilation.

"It’s good that companies, universities and [the] ETC are working together. I hope we can develop new knowledge. It’s a great thing we had a stable foundation with Bio4Energy. I think we will see some really interesting things in the next three years [as the R&D on] solid biomass and torrefied materials are coming close to catching up with the black liquor part".

Umeki said the researchers would focus on processes and applications for producing synthetic gas, dimethyl ether (bioDME) and methanol. Feedstocks used are generally woody biomass such as forestry residues or organic waste. The bioDME produced from black liquor is at the demonstration stage.

Future of R&D on thermal conversion in Bio4Energy

"I think we have a great future… but we are only one of many other platforms [in Bio4Energy] that are just as important. We will be working with them", Öhman said, adding that Bio4Energy would be moving further into developing fuels from and applications for solid biomass.