The prestigious Swedish Research Council has granted no less than five new fundamental science projects led by Bio4Energy researchers, in its annual round of funding in Science and Technology.
From the operating sites of two of the project partners: the Södra Cell Mörrum pulp mill and a worker at the Smurfit Kappa paper mill (insert). Both operations are in Sweden. Photos by courtesy of Per Pixel and Caroline Lundmark, respectively. A new report designed to lay bare the potential for coupling pulp production with biofuel making from pulping residue, shows that there is a double benefit to be had in doing so for pulp mill operators.
First, production capacity could be increased at existing mills. Second, climate-efficient transport biofuel could be produced at a cost per energy unit that is on a par or better, compared with similar biofuels made from residues from forestry operations.
The new fuels would be so-called drop-in biofuels, which means that they are functional equivalents of their petroleum fuel counterparts and thus can be directly blended in with these latter at any ratio.
The researchers' report identifies two main technologies that would put the production cost of the biofuel at 80 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh) or about 65-to-75 euro cents per litre. It is the result of a collaboration project between Bio4Energy systems analysis researchers at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) in Sweden, companies in the sector and researchers from the RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.
Populus plants at the researchers' field trial plantation in southern Sweden. Photos by courtesy of Henrik Böhlenius.Researchers in Bio4Energy and a partner will investigate the potential for a rollout in Sweden of plantations of fast-growing poplar trees—Populus trichocarpa in Latin—as a means to increase biomass production for making renewable automotive fuels from wood and woody residue.
“We see a great potential for [rollout of] this type of plantation, along the lines of one million hectares that could be added to the current domestic production of bioenergy”, Böhlenius said.
Sweden would benefit from making more advanced biofuels—renewable fuels that do not compete with food production and meet high quality standards in terms of their greenhouse gas footprint—at an affordable cost.
Land is available, to believe official statistics. Roughly 400,000 hectares of agricultural land could be planted with poplar without jeopardsing food production. Another one-to-two million hectare of spruce tree plantations, sitting on former agricultural land, could be used to plant poplar or other fast-growing tree species.
A first-ever webinar series by Bio4Energy and partner programmes at Umeå University, Sweden, informed stakeholders around the world about the latest advances in R&D pertaining to Sustainable Cities and Circular Bioeconomy.
Finally, Bio4Energy prepared to change leadership, with a new management troika taking over the reins 1 January 2020. Efforts got off the ground to prepare for a possible third programme period of Bio4Energy.
Bio4Energy’s second five-year mandate is set to end 31 December 2020.
Bio4Energy bids its researchers, members of the Industrial Network, Board and Steering Group—as well as all stakeholders and followers—a happy summer; or winter if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.
The first half of 2020 has been like no other year, with events having to move online and important trips being cancelled. Despite this, the Bio4Energy members have adapted and kept working from their private homes or with safety precautions taken while carrying out essential laboratory duties.
Bio4Energy's management and communications would like to say thank you very much and to keep up the good work!
Ewa Mellerowicz surveys a hybrid aspen plant at an early stage of field trials in Sweden. Photo by courtesy of Ewa Mellerowicz.Scientists in Bio4Energy and academic colleagues have shown in field trials that aspen trees that were genetically modified (GM) to render more input material for making biofuel from wood than their wildtype counterparts, are robust enough to grow at a real-life plantation. The researchers also found that they could extract more such glucose sugar, more easily, from the GM trees, compared with the wildtype.
“The glucose yield was 25 to 30 percent higher in the modified trees compared with the wildtype trees. This is a result obtained without pre-treatment so it means that [the modification helped to] decrease the recalcitrance of the wood and made the raw material easier to transform into sugar”, Mellerowicz told Bio4Energy Communications.
Mellerowicz is one of the principal investigators on the research and development platform Bio4Energy Feedstock and has been in charge of verifying laboratory results in experimental plantations, or field trials, since the start in 2014 at Våxtorp, Sweden. The scientists planted and monitored more than 600 GM hybrid aspen trees, but which had to be harvested on the early side because of the impact of severe drought conditions in the summer of 2018, when all of Europe experienced heat waves.
Bio4Energy's researchers and students met online to share the latest progress by the seven Bio4Energy Research and Development (R&D) Platforms, as the 17 June Spring 2020 Bio4Energy Researchers' Meeting.*
Until further notice, the Autumn 2020 Bio4Energy Researchers' Meeting will be held 13-14 October, at Skellefteå, Sweden.
*The pictures used are from archives, in memory of the Spring 2019 Bio4Energy Researchers' Meeting. There and then, our students made a large contribution and want to encourage them to keep up the good work.
Sylvia Larsson is new coordinator for education in Bio4Energy. Here with co-worker Atanu Kumar Das. Bio4Energy is having to cancel this autumn’s course in the Bio4Energy Graduate School for advanced students. Biorefinery Pilot Research has been hugely popular for its on-location learning about pilot and demonstration facilities along the coast of northern Sweden. However, the risk for spread of the global Coronavirus means the course has been postponed to next year.
Instead an online introduction will be developed so that all PhD students and postdoctoral researchers interested in research and development in the area of wood biorefinery will have the possibility to learn more about the Bio4Energy research environment and the basics of its activities.
“We are going to make something exceptional that will serve as an entry point to the Graduate School”, Larsson said;
“It is about giving all PhD student the possibility to access what we have to offer. It will place the focus content of the hands-on courses in context. It gives students from different universities the possibility to study together. We have a lot of international students”, she explained.