Recent research projects on nutrient recycling from biomass The life-cycle assessors: From left Stellan Marklund of Bio4Energy and; Johanna Berlin, Johanna Jönsson, Frida Røyne and Johan Thorén, all of the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden. Photo by Bio4Energy.ash and on biofuel production from biomass mixed with household waste have been showing promising results, a meeting of the Bio4Energy Environmental Platform heard this week. Moreover, much awaited work to run environmental quality checks on Bio4Energy’s research had kick-started with a new cooperation between B4E and the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, participants to the meeting at Umeå, in northeastern Sweden, were told.
Commonly known as SP, the 1200-strong state-run research institute will lend no less than four of its Gothenburg-based researchers on systems analysis to B4E, with the aim of them carrying out a life-cycle assessment (LCA) on various tools and methods for conducting sustainable biorefinery, developed by researchers in B4E. This means that the SP employees Johan Thorén, Frida Røyne, Johanna Jönsson and Johanna Berlin are official members of B4E.
“We are happy to cooperate with SP. You are the glue that binds together researchers and business and industry (in Sweden). I really believe in this cooperation. It is of strategic importance to us”, said the B4E programme manager Stellan Marklund, head of the Environmental Platform, with a nod to the SP co-workers at the gathering of the B4E Environmental Platform.
“This cooperation is really important for us too”, retorted Berlin, a PhD researcher serving at SP as a research and business developer. She said that LCA was about assessing the total effect of emissions from the extraction and use of raw materials and of the energy used in the process of making a certain service, product or group of products. The impact of generation and disposal of waste was included in this total effect, as well as land use.
"A life cycle starts at the extraction of raw material, followed by manufacturing, retailment, usage and waste management and all transports", Berlin later said in an e-mail.
The result of LCA model calculations, generally based on a great amount of input data, should be seen not as an exact measure of making or using a product or process but of its environmental sustainability compared to other products and rough estimate of its footprint in terms of emissions, Berlin added.
While the detailed terms of the B4E-SP cooperation have yet to be laid down, it is expected that one PhD projects will be devoted to assessing environmental effects of a potential switch by a Sweden-based chemical industry cluster to forest-sourced raw materials from fossil oil-based ditto.
Another PhD project looked at the total biomass “potential”, which is taken to mean the total outtake of biomass from forests and of agricultural crops from farmland that can be sustained. The project would target the Swedish situation, but be placed in an international perspective.
Fuels from biomass mixed with household waste Stina Jansson of Bio4Energy does research to contain polluting emissions from biomass combustion. Photo by Bio4Energy.
One of B4E’s most recent PIs, the Umeå University assistant professor Stina Jansson brought news of a fresh industry-academy collaboration to make biofuels for automotive transport out of municipal waste and woody refuse.
“We were contacted by (the Swedish waste management company) VAFAB Miljö at Västerås”, Jansson said, telling of the small Swedish city’s efforts at advanced sorting and recycling of household waste and its municipal leadership’s wish to turn a profit from it.
“We are looking at the co-combustion of refuse-derived fuel—RDF—with and without the organic (waste) fraction, focusing on the mechanistical aspects of POPs’ formation and the influence of the different types of biomass used in combustion with the waste fraction”, she said, referring to the class of chemicals that is a target of her group’s work, namely, persistent organic pollutants.
POPs may form when wood is burned and the biomass incompletely combusted, or in connection to the incineration of household waste, for instance. The chemicals, regulated by international conventions, volatilise and can travel long distances as air pollution and bioaccumulate in the fatty tissue of humans after intake of contaminated food, potentially causing adverse health effects, “including illness and death”, according to a 1996 report on the Health effects of POPs from the International Programme on Chemical Safety.
Jansson said that preliminary results of her team’s research showed that, of the three composite materials that it was testing, the one based on combustion of RDF without the organic waste fraction looked a promising candidate for designing a fuel. This was because the mixed input material had low moisture content and gave rise only to low environmentally-harmful emissions on combustion. She added that the partners would try to limit the levels of the only notable “problem” substance found in the fuel—copper. Moreover, the organic waste being separated out from the RDF would be recycled and turned into biogas.
She added that the state-run Swedish forestry company “Sveaskog is very interested” and was looking to contribute to the industry-academy research project.
At the meeting. The participants to the 20 September Bio4Energy Environmental Platform meeting at Umeå are listed below. Please go to our ‘Research’ page for contact details.
Stellan Marklund – Platform leader, B4E Programme Manager and Professor in Chemistry at Umeå University
Dan Boström – Professor in Inorganic Chemistry at Umeå University
Stina Jansson – Assistant Professor in Chemistry at Umeå University
Mattias Holmlund – Postdoctoral Researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Johan Ingri – Professor in Biogeochemistry at Luleå University of Technology
Johanna Berlin – PhD, Research and Business Developer at SP Energy Technology
Johanna Jönsson – PhD Researchers at SP Energy Technology
Johan Thorén – Doctoral Student at SP Energy Technology – Bioresources
Frida Røyne - Doctoral Student at SP Energy Technology
B4E Environmental Guest: Mats Tysklind – Professor in Chemistry at Umeå University