Industry professionals or consultants wanting inside on what it takes to develop successful biorefinery technology past the laboratory stage, via pilot and demonstration trials, are equally welcome to apply.
A new article by Dalia Abdelfattah and colleagues says that blends of advanced biofuel and the currently most used fuel in the shipping industry, may be its ticket to a lesser climate change footprint on the Artic environment. Picture used with permission.Finding a climate and environment friendly alternative to fossil fuels in shipping in the Arctic is turning out to be complex, a pioneering study on the topic shows. The new scientific article also contains evidence that blends of advanced biofuels with marine gas oil currently in use, could lessen the climate change and environmental footprint of the industry.
Bio4Energy researchers have been going full steam ahead with an encompassing project, granted in spring, with new results discussing the environmental and climate change impacts of introducing either biodiesel or bioethanol made from waste from pulp and paper industry in Sweden, as fuel in maritime shipping in the Arctic region.
Both fuels are so-called drop-in alternatives to fossil fuels, meaning that they can be used in current engines or in blends with fossil fuel equivalents, without the need for modification of the existing infrastructure. Both are already in use in the automotive industry, but for road transportation.
“It looks like the best option is to use blended fuels. We are trying to optimise it, to find the preferable blend”, said Dalia Abdelfattah, project leader and a Bio4Energy system analysis researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
The research team have been performing life-cycle assessment studies which show a complex picture of the studied thermochemical routes to bioethanol and to biodiesel, respectively, rendering considerable greenhouse gas emission reductions, were either to replace the heavy fuel oil or marine gas oil in use.
Biofuel Region, a membership-based organisation in northern Sweden, leads this sub project of an EU project called Botnia Atlantica, under the European Regional Development Fund.
“We want to know what is required for taking out the forestry residues [from the forest] for the purpose of turning them into chemicals. Today, the sector is not adapted for this”, Athanassiadis told Bio4Energy Communications. He is a scientist on the research and development platform Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy and affiliated with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
“If we find that there is considerable value [to be gained] from the forest residues, the production chain will be adapted. For instance, it may be necessary to take the forestry residues out before the timber, since especially the needles need to be taken out fresh to have their value conserved”, he said.
The project relies on the assumption that the needles of coniferous trees, such as spruce and pine, contain valuable substances that, by means of extraction and processing, could be turned into high-value chemicals. These could be platform or specialty chemicals, for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, dietary supplements, foams, coatings or even bio-based plastics.
It was only a matter of waiting long enough. Summer has arrived in northern Sweden, where most of the Bio4Energy researchers are based. Photo by Anna Strom (Archives).In terms of research output, 2020 was the second most productive since the start of the Bio4Energy research environment in 2010. Several system analysis projects delivered results directly relevant to industry. One made the so-called 100 List of Sweden’s most commercially promising research projects, published annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. Due to restrictions imposed by the spread of Covid-19, all events moved online and successfully so.
Bio4Energy’s new management troika worked hard to put new routines in place and prepare the research environment for a possible third programme period from 1 January 2022. According to Katerine Riklund, chair of Bio4Energy Board and pro-vice-chancellor of Umeå University, funding for Sweden’s Strategic Research Environments—of which Bio4Energy is one—is set to continue at least until the end of 2022.
Sweden-based media picked up extensively on projects on combined production of edible mushroom and biofuel or prebiotics from biomass from the sea and forest, respectively. A magazine with an international reach, Bioenergy Insight Magazine published an interview on Bio4Energy scientists' efforts to bring sustainable bioenergy to Sub-Saharan Africa, drawing on technology for biomass gasification combined with production of biochar.
Bio4Energy partner RISE ETC, together with an industrial consortium, have a new project to scale up production of bio-based carbon black. Photo used with permission.Big strides are about to be made to scale up and improve production of entirely bio-based carbon black, which has characteristics to mimic Industrial Carbon Black.
However, sometimes one has to fight to realise a great idea. Today, the Bio4Energy scientists behind the invention finally have partners and funding in place to develop a pilot unit that will bring production to one kilogramme per hour, a year from now. While this may seem insignificant, it is not.
The industrial chemical and bulk commodity carbon black forms at the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products. It is widely used as a reinforcing filler in rubber products, such as car tyres, and as a colour pigment. It “possibly” causes cancer in humans, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, as a consequence of people inhaling dust containing carbon black fragments.
From left: Feng Chen, Shaojun Xiong and Carlos Martín are doing research to make joint production of mushroom and biofuel commercially feasible. Photo published with permission.An innovative project started by funds from Bio4Energy—on developing joint production of edible mushroom and biofuel—is being recognised by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) for its potential to create value for industry in a “not-too-distant” future.
“The purpose is to convert the scientific part to future commercial use, I guess”, he added.
The concept of growing edible mushroom, such as shiitake or oyster mushroom, on wood originates from East Asia. The idea is to obtain commercial amounts of edible mushroom, a protein-rich source of food, while at the same time obtaining a suitable input material for making biofuel. If the growth conditions are right, the mushroom will not only thrive, but also break down a main polymer in the wood called lignin. This means that another well-known tree polymer—cellulose—can more easily be extracted and turned into ethanol biofuel.
Bio4Energy platform leader Sylvia Larsson and her postdoctoral student Glaydson Simões share a joke during their work, at the Biomass Technology Centre at Umeå, Sweden. Photo by courtesy of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. A Bio4Energy leader—and a recent professor—wants to give young people tools with which to change the world, moving to a bioeconomy from an economy dependent on materials and fuels based on petrochemicals.
“I want to capture the commitment of young people to transform [what I perceive to be] the generalised feeling of hopelessness... in the face of climate change. We want to start from the idea of a future society in which the use of fossilised resources is minimal. And to create training that will give students tools to help shape the future,” she said.
The work of the Bio4Energy platform Larsson leads rests on two legs. In terms of biorefinery—meaning the concept of making chemicals, fuels and materials from bio-based starting materials—her platform tackles the need to make these latter more like fossilised resources. Bio-based feedstock like wood is heterogenous, meaning that its composition varies greatly. Larsson’s platform, Bio4Energy Wood Pre-processing, adapts the woody materials to specific processes. She refers to this as the “problem-solving” leg of the work of the platform.