Bio4Energy is upgrading its website and would like to ask all visitors please for a little patience. We are receiving the kind help of web developer Simon Birve of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences to tweak formats and modules in shape.
We started the upgrade 4 June 2015 and expect to need a week-to-ten days to have this "new" bio4energy.se fully functional.
Actors from the chemical and forestry industries in Sweden, as well as academia and research institutes, have worked together since 2012 to assess the feasibility of plastic makers' at Stenungssund switching part of their raw material base from petrochemical to woody feedstock. Their report shows it is possible but that political support measures would be needed to make the production of "green" chemicals cost efficient on a commercial scale. Photo by courtesy of SP Processum.In terms of technology, the chemical industry at Stenungssund, Sweden, could make the switch today to a renewable raw material as a partial base for its production, according to a recent report from a Swedish national Forest Chemistry project, using existing technology for making plastics from petrochemicals.
However, for the industry to achieve a level of profitability when using wood or woody waste as feedstock comparable to that of using chemicals refined from fossil oil, political support measures similar to those in place for certain types of bioenergy production would be needed, the report authors from SP Processum and Chalmers Technical University say.
The research in Forest Chemistry focused on three tracks of the chemical-making operations: Production of butanol, olefins and methanol extracted from the sulphate process of pulping operations. An environmental impact assessment was performed by Bio4Energy researchers at the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in the form of a life-cycle assessment attempting to gauge the environmental and climatic impact of switching 25 per cent of the raw material base for the totality of the production at the industrial cluster to woody feedstock, as compared with a continued used of petrochemical feedstock.
"We have examined the preconditions both for processes in which cellulose-based ethanol and methanol made by gasification of raw materials from the forest are produced as starting materials from the production of chemicals and plastics. The project results show that it is feasible to use existing techniques, even if additional technological progress is welcome as it would make the processes more efficient.
"Looking at the technical side of things is very important since, in addition to bulk products, one could make high value-added products. There is good reason to continue the work, for instance on lignin products", according to Jönsson.
Bio4Energy’s LCA researchers on the project stressed the importance of assessing the sustainability of products coming out of the cluster along their collective value chain.
Bio4Energy researchers have reviewed different ways of upgrading tall oil residue from pulping operations to value-added chemicals. The researchers belive there is money to be made by industry from harnessing some of the options found. Photo by Bio4Energy.Researchers in Bio4Energy have published a review article designed to guide biorefinery industry looking to make value-added products from side streams of pulp and paper production such as crude tall oil from trees. This is an area that is attracting the attention of several industrial operators in the vanguard of trying to make renewable chemicals with properties similar to chemicals refined from fossil oil.
Just as the Nordic Paper Journal noted in a recent article, there is likely to be big money to make from side streams of the pulping process. The Bio4Energy researchers point to several routes by which substantially value-added fragrances, pharmaceuticals, bio-based plastics, renewable diesel, specialty chemicals or even jet fuel may be made.
The Bio4Energy researchers' 29-page review article gives a complete overview of the latest research on various compounds extracted from turpentine—produced worldwide in approximately 35,000 tonnes each year as a side stream in chemical or mechanical pulping of wood—and treated by heterogeneous catalysis. The article appeared in the April 2015 issue of the Chemical Reviews which receives even more citations by other researchers than the prestigious scientific journals Nature or Science.
Bio4Energy is being evaluated for its first five years a biorefinery research environment. The Swedish government is expected to decide whether to grant Bio4Energy a second five-year operational period, 2016-2021. Sweden's energy minister, Ibrahim Baylan (centre), came to visit Bio4Energy at Umeå in November 2014. Photo by Mattias Petterson.Bio4Energy has received good marks for leadership, research and development and outreach, in an evaluation by Swedish authorities aided by an international panel of experts. The evaluation essentially targets the scientific quality and "strategic" leadership of the research environment in its first five years in operation, 2010-2015. It feeds in to an assessment of Bio4Energy by its main sponsor, the Swedish government, which is expected to decide by the end of the year whether to grant funding for second operational period for the research environment in 2016-2021.
In total, 43 government-funded "strategic" research environments (SREs) were evaluated by five government bodies and an encompassing evaluation report was forwarded to the Swedish government 30 April. It is understood that Bio4Energy was in the top third of research environments which "currently meet the objective of achieving the highest international standard", according to the report entitled Evaluation of the Strategic Research Area Initiative 2010-2014.
A look at the fine print of the evaluation report reveals that the research output of Bio4Energy is "[in] the frontline", which was the highest possible level of rating given by the panel of experts, the two other two levels being "reaching international standards" and "not convincing so far".
An important aspect of providing methods and tools for conducting efficient and sustainable biorefinery—such as Bio4Energy does—is to keep the environmental and health impacts of biomass-based technologies in check.
The scope of the congress traditionally includes both direct biomass burning and combustion as a means to turn biomass into biofuel for automotive transport, and highlights this year include prevention of the formation and emission of halogenated persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and secondary emissons of intermediate chemicals.
"Here we are talking about by-products of combustion and environmental effects and health effects of these by-products. They can be different types of compounds and structures. So there is quite some research on soot and particles, some on ash and metals and organic environmental pollutants. So this is quite a broad conference [content wise] in that it discusses a range of aspects of combustion and [its] environmental and health effects".
Or so it would seem as the second edition of BPR concluded with a final seminar where PhD student researchers in Bio4Energy presented encompassing reports describing and analysing the activities of seven entities which host pilot and demonstration units run by Bio4Energy researchers or, in one case, by its strategic partners.
Biorefinery Pilot Research is designed to introduce students at the PhD level to the hands-on work of developing biorefinery technologies on site at pilot and demonstration facilities which are part of the Bio4Energy research environment. Bio4Energy deals with biochemical and thermochemical conversion of biomass to fuels, chemicals and new materials from woody raw materials and organic waste. It also designs various options for the pre-treatment or pre-processing of biomass by means for instance of catalysis, separation, fractionation or torrefaction.
This introduction mainly takes place on site so that students have the possibility to gain an appreciation of the actual handling of pilot equipment and to have contacts with the engineers and other technicians running the facilities and, by extension, contacts in industry and academia, and at research institutes.
Catalysis and separation research goes on at the Umeå University laboratories of Jyri-Pekka Mikkola of Bio4Energy. Here is a snapshot from today's work by professor Mikkola and one of three freshly arrived ERASMUS students from Italy. Photo by Bio4Energy.Bio4Energy is lucky to have fantastic researchers. Having barely concluded the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting—which international conference this year had a focus on biorefinery processes—and received the thumbs up from several speakers and others among its 182 participants, they are back in their laboratories and lecture halls inventing new fuels, chemicals and materials from bio-based feedstock, or teaching Bio4Energy's students how to do the same.
Last but not least, Bio4Energy is looking forward to acknowledging the work of its PhD students who will be wrapping up encompassing reports on the innovation systems attached to the biorefinery pilot and demonstration facilities which are part of the Bio4Energy research environment. The students in question are enrolled in the Bio4Energy Graduate School and about to finish the very hands-on study course Biorefinery Pilot Research.
With this Bio4Energy would like to wish its researchers, members of the industrial network and stakeholders a Happy Easter! Stay in touch.
Bioethanol may be successfully produced from genetically engineered algae, carbon dioxide and sunlight, Kerstin Baier of Algenol Biofuel Germany told the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting on its third and final day 27 March. In fact, 4,000 photo bioreactors taking up two acres of land were turning out the very thing at the company’s "integrated" biorefinery at Fort Myers in Florida, U.S.A.. The step to commercialisation would be taken in 2017, according to Baier. Advantages of the technology was its low fresh water consumption, the "highly energy-efficient" technology used and that fact that productive strains of cyanobateria (a type of blue-green algae) were used, she said.
An assessment by a constellation of industrial companies, research institutes and academia has shown that it would be economically feasible to replace parts of a chemical industry cluster at petro chemically-based operations with bio-based ditto. The plastic making companies, located at Stenungssund in the south and west of Sweden, thus could continue using their current infrastructure, but be sourced with woody feedstock for some of their processes and involve available technology, be drop-in solutions and concern bulk processes. This “Forest Chemistry” project was unique in Sweden since it had brought the chemical industry together with environmental chemistry scientists and social science researchers, in an attempt to assess the feasibility of lessening the industry’s reliance on products refined from fossil oil.
Last but not least, Pierre Joliot, 61 years a photosynthesis researcher and grandchild of the twice Nobel Prize winning physicist Marie Curie, delivered a few lessons on the tribulations of scientific research and described some highlights of his career.
"Our jobs as scientists is to find something new", professor Joliot said. Perhaps not by means of large breakthroughs but by "making a lot of small discoveries. I think we are all able to do this as scientists.
"One must have a right of failure in basic research, otherwise one stays in the dogma… A certain degree of ignorance is needed", he said.
Joliot said he had started his research career in the 1950s and, apart from a short stint in the U.S.A. in the 60s, worked for most of it from his native country, France. Among other things he had carried out functional studies on oxygen evolution, long-distance energy transfer and what he termed the “charge accumulation process”, he told participants on the last day of UREM 2015.