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biomass energy

  • KSLA Seminar: Forests, Bioenergy & the Global Climate, Stockholm, Sweden

    Forests, Bioenergy and the Global Climate

    There is a wide consensus in the scientific community that energy systems, which rely on fossil fuels, are unsustainable. Wood-based solutions have been proposed as an alternative and gained wide support. However, disagreement exists among experts as to whether contemporary forest management as a source of wood-based alternatives is indeed sustainable. In February 2016 the journal Science published a paper stating that “Europe’s managed forests contribute to warming”, followed by a letter from eminent scientists to ten US senators in which they question the carbon neutrality of forest bioenergy. These publications contradict earlier views that are widely published in scientific literature and cited in, for example, the assessments of the Inter-Governmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).

    In Europe, forest based biomass used to be generally viewed as sustainable, carbon neutral, and a solution to on-going climate change. The aforementioned recent publications suggest that the role of forestry in climate mitigation is much more limited than stated earlier. Given the importance of woody biomass in the energy production of Sweden and Finland, the new research received much public attention. How can this dispute be understood? Can the dispute be settled or do we need to adopt a new approach and strategy to forest management especially in light of the Paris Climate Agreement?

  • Lack of Funding Puts End to Large-scale Pilot Trials of BioDME and Bio-based Methanol in Sweden - Audio

    LTU Green Fuels at Pitea SEBiofuel production at large-scale pilot operations at Piteå, Sweden will cease. Photo by courtesy of the Luleå University of Technology.

    LTU Green Fuels at Piteå—Sweden's only large-scale pilot operations for the production of liquid biofuel from forestry residue—are going to cease its activities due to lack of funding, according to a press release issued by its owner, the Luleå University of Technology.

    Despite the pilot plant's having delivered about 1000 tonnes of clean, bio-based dimethyl ether (DME) and methanol, and despite the product having been successfully trialled as fuel in commercial trucking operationsby the car manufacturer Volvo, the Swedish Energy Agency had decided not to extend funding beyond the 100 million Swedish kroner it had granted for the past three years, the press release said. It appears that the current 17 employees at LTU Green Fuels will soon have to look around for other work.

    "I think it's a shame that we have to discontinue the work at the plant but I am nevertheless hopeful that the technology [developed there] has a future. It has been thoroughly verified in our pilot plant", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., professor at the LTU and part of the research and development platform Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies.

    In successive interviews since the start of Bio4Energy in 2010, he has been pointing out that for industry to take the step to commercialisation, a long-term and stable political framework is needed that is supportive of a large-scale roll out of second-generation or more advanced biofuels and co-products.

  • LCA Appropriate Tool for Assessing Environmental Impact of Forest Products, But Beware of Uncertainties

    Frida Royne Photo by FRSystem analysis student in Bio4Energy Frida Røyne will be defending her PhD thesis on LCA and forest products 22 April at Umeå, Sweden. Photo by courtesy of Frida Røyne.A well-known method for assessing the environmental and climate change impacts of products over their life-cycle is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Forest products are no exception in this respect. However, while there has been rising interest in applying LCA to check the impact of forest products designed to replace similar ones refined from fossil oil, in the last decade a discussion has been ongoing about how to account for greenhouse gas emissions and from which sources.

    LCA is one of the most commonly used methods for environmental life-cycle assessments, but the correctness of an assessment's outcome relies heavily on the researcher's choice of method in designing his or her study, as well as the availability of relevant input data.

    Tomorrow, a Bio4Energy student who has dwelled into both these issues will be defending her thesis on Exploring the Relevance of Uncertainty in the Life Cycle Assessment of Forest Products.

    Part of the new research and development platform Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of Umeå University used recent cases studies—such as a "Forest Chemistry" project in which chemical and forestry industry in Sweden joined forces to try to assess whether a chemical industry cluster at Stenungsund could feasibly replace part of its fossil raw material base with forest-sourced feedstock—to draw conclusions as to whether LCA is a suitable method by which to assess forest products. However, being a generalist and employed by the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Røyne also was interested in looking at the development of LCA as a method of systems analysis, its potential flaws and the way in which these were being communicated.

    Her chief conclusion is that LCA is indeed an appropriate method for assessing the environmental and climate change impact of forest product systems, but that the use of additional methods—such as life-cycle management or scenario analysis—may be warranted and that, in each individual case, researchers have to ask themselves whether there are uncertainties and discuss these in their studies.
  • New Programme Managers for Bio4Energy

    ChB LJ EW Bio4Energy C MattiasPetterssonBio4Energy's new management team (from left): Christoffer Boman, Leif Jönsson and Elisabeth Wetterlund. Photo by Mattias Pettersson.Bio4Energy has new programme managers. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of Umeå University (UmU) will be acting programme managers and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Luleå University of Technology (LTU) their deputy.

    The appointment comes at a pivotal time, since Bio4Energy is coming up to the close of its second programme period in 2020. Its funder, the Swedish government, is expected to decide this year whether to renew the funding for Sweden’s Strategic Research Environments (SRE), of which Bio4Energy is one.

    It will be up to the newly appointed threesome to lead Bio4Energy into the future.

    “We hope that wise decisions will be made and that the SRE initiative is allowed to continue. We will have to await the arrival of political decision to know more about this”, said Jönsson, professor of Chemistry at UmU.

  • Potentially Toxic Chemicals in Thermal Conversion of Biomass Need to Be Investigated, Controlled

    QiujuGao 416Bio4Energy PhD researcher Qiuju Gao checks torrefied material for toxic organic chemicals in a laboratory at the University of York. Photo by courtesy of Qiuju Gao.In large-scale production of heat and electricity in the developed world, emissions from biomass burning are generally well controlled. Recently, however, new high-technological methods have been invented that are designed as a pre-treatment step to various forms of temperature-dependent conversion of renewable biomass to fuels, chemicals and materials, often in combination with heat and/or electricity production.

    Because in such thermal conversion every new process step could be a potential source of undesirable emissions, and because these need to be controlled for the purpose of safeguarding human health and the environment, Bio4Energy scientists set out to investigate the matter with a focus on toxic emissions in relation to pre-treatment technologies that are still in their infancy: Microwave-assisted pyrolysis and torrefaction. While the former is designed to produce a bio oil using microwave technology (and which oil then may be further refined into value-added specialty chemicals), the other is a form of roasting of the biomass which renders light-weight and hydrophobic solid pellets or briquettes. Both methods are performed in an oxygen free, or near oxygen-free, environment.

    In a set of studies carried out by Bio4Energy PhD student This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and colleagues at Umeå University in Sweden and at the University of York in the UK, the researchers wanted to find out whether each of the two technologies gave rise to the formation of dioxins or dioxin-like substances that are toxic organic compounds that can spread over large distances, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and animals and persist for a long time in the environment. These chemicals are regulated under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which is a global treaty agreed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2001. It aims for countries to phase out the use of POPs since these are known to induce cancer and immune system deficiencies in humans.
  • Projects Granted Bio4Energy Researchers on Integrated Climate Assessment, Membranes for Desalination, Plant Cell Biology

    Photo by AnnaStrom2019x400A patch of mainly coniferous forest in northern Sweden, in mid-October 2019. Photo by Anna Strom© 2019.Next year, Bio4Energy scientists will kick off multiannual projects, respectively, on integrated climate assessment of using woody biomass, production of membranes to desalinate sea water and on investigating the “unknowns” of plant cell biology for the ultimate purpose of increasing biomass production. The Swedish Research Council Formas (Formas) or the Swedish Research Council (VR) granted the projects in their respective annual rounds of funding.

    What uses of biomass should be preferred to minimise greenhouse gas emissions?

    The first project is broad in scope and will require the researchers to use a number of system analysis models. The aim is to find out, starting from sustainably managed forests in Sweden, which type of use of the harvested biomass will maximise efficiency, in terms of using bioenergy instead of fossil fuels for the purpose of minimising greenhouse gas emissions. The findings will serve to guide decision-makers in their attempt to understand what mix of technologies to favour and, consequently, what support measures to propose.

    “Understanding the climate impact of different forest biomass paths is paramount for the implementation of appropriate policy measures. The purpose of the project is to improve the effectiveness of reaching the climate targets by advancing our understanding of climate impacts of using biomass, especially trade-offs and interactions of climate effects between the biophysical and economical systems”, says the project grant application.

  • Report on New Method to Map Biomass Properties Receives Praise, but Author Warns Large-scale Testing, Industry Cooperation, Needed

    Mikael Thyrel Photo by Anna StromBio4Energy reseracher Mikael Thyrel has been acknowledged for his work by the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry. Photo by Anna Strom©.The composition of different types of biomass materials varies widely and may even vary within, say, a single species of wood. This is generally seen as an impediment to the large-scale roll out of biorefinery—meaning industrial operations designed to make a cascade of bio-based products such as biofuels, "green" chemicals or bio-based starting materials for products—since each biorefinery process may have to be adapted to biomass materials from a single source. This is especially true for lignocellulosic biomass, meaning biomass from wood or inedible parts of plants.

    Thus, knowledge about quick and easy ways to judge the properties of each type of biomass is high in demand. Bio4Energy postdoctoral fellow This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has focused his research on such methods, in the pre-treatment step of the biomass intended for use in biorefinery processes. Using sophisticated X-ray fluorescence and near-infrared spectroscopy, he found that the two techniques may be used to gauge the amount of non-desirable ash-forming elements or contaminants and to single out wood chips for their content of value-added extractive substances, respectively.

    While the conclusions of Thyrel's work so far are based on testing on a laboratory scale, this has not stopped the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA) deeming it useful and novel enough to grant him an award for "best PhD thesis 2016" for the report in which he sums it all up:  Spectroscopic Characterisation of Lignocellulosic Biomass. Thyrel is to receive a diploma from the hands of the Swedish prince Carl Philip, 28 January in Stockholm and has received a personal grant.

    "As the [biorefinery] industry is trying to start up new methods are needed for the characterisation of biomass. Biomass is heterogeneous in nature. Especially targeted processes for producing chemicals are rather sensitive [to impurities in the biomass]. One batch of wood chips does not look the same as the other. We have to find a way to characterise them so that the polluting elements can be removed or handled", said Thyrel, who works at the Department of Forest Biomaterials and Technology of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
  • Research Seminar: Formation of Dioxins from Chlorophenol in Catalytic Reactions, Umeå, Sweden

    Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski, Murdoch University, Australia will hold a research seminar entitled Formation of Dioxins from Chlorophenol in Catalytic Reactions.

    Time and place:1 p.m. at room KB3A9, KBC Building, Umeå University
  • Seminar on Bio-based Feedstock: 'Make No Mistake, There is Still Momentum for Building the Bioeconomy'

    Is the efficient and sustainable biorefinery of the future challenged by the low price of oil and gas and the lack of a political framework that encourages bio-based production in the long term? Yes. Have actors in the sector shut up shop while waiting for conditions to be right for launching the bioeconomy? Not at all.

    Judging from developments in Sweden, a precursor country in terms of biorefinery development based on woody materials and organic waste, great strides are being made in industry and academia to pave the way for a transition from an economy heavily reliant fossil fuels and materials based on petrochemicals, towards a bioeconomy. A few such developments were highlighted yesterday at a seminar at Umeå, in northern Sweden, on Feedstock for Sustainable Biofuel Production, by the Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels (f3 Centre), the research environment Bio4Energy and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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  • Systems' Perspectives on Biomass Resources

    Bio4Energy studentsltu AnnaStromExtent and credits: 7.5 ECTS             


    Course coordinator: Robert Lundmark 



    Objectives

    On completion of the course, students will:

    • Be able to understand how to apply a systems' perspective on their own research;

    • Have gained insights into the current global energy and environmental challenges; 

    • Have gained insights into the rational of sustainability; 

    • Have awareness of tools and methods used for environmental, technical and economic systems analysis. 

    Dates and locations

    Autumn 2019

    28 October - 1 November, Luleå, Sweden: Lectures and workshops;

    Followed by independent work on a project assignment.


    Contents

    The course consists of:

    • Lectures (on sustainability issues, systems analysis approaches and tools) and workshops;

    • Lectures on essential subjects for large-scale biorefinery or bioenergy research and;

    • A project assignment, where the students identify suitable systems analysis tools or methods to be applied to their own research. The outcome will be a draft research proposal, a journal or conference manuscript or a chapter of a thesis.

    Application and prerequisites

    The application for enrolment in Systems Perspectives on Biomass Resources is closed.

    For enquiries regarding the course content, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Thermal Treatment of Sludge Could Boost Phosphorus Resources, Solve Waste Problem

    MarcusOhman 2916rsBio4Energy vice programme manager Marcus Öhman will develop a new efficient method for phosphorous recovery from waste sludge, together with colleagues in Bio4Energy. Photo by courtesy of Marcus Öhman.

    Bio4Energy researchers are developing a new efficient method for phosphorus recovery using thermal treatment of sludge from municipal waste treatment facilities or pulp and paper operations. Once implemented, the scheme is expected to provide for a reduction of the risk of contamination of food and feed crops by heavy metals—as well as reduce the problem of how to dispose of toxic waste sludge—and produce an economic benefit for industry. Research leader This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. said that the technology could be ready for industrial uptake within a decade.

    "We could be at the stage of industrial demonstration of the technology in five years. Then a certain amount of time would be needed for classification of the product. We know that it would be economically beneficial for some [existing] bioenergy operations which use fluid-bed technology to start co-firing dried sludge with [fuel wood]", according to Öhman, who is a professor in Energy Engineering at the Luleå University of Technology(LTU).

    The research and development project, which is the fruit of collaboration between Bio4Energy researchers at LTU and Umeå University, has been several years in the making. Now it can go ahead thanks to a recently announced multiannual grant from the Swedish Research Council Formas.

    Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plant growth and thus for food production. It is extracted by mining in a handful of countries worldwide and its maximum production is expected to peak in the year 2030. After that predictions range from 50 to several hundred years before it runs out. Research is ongoing on a handful of methods for recycling the mineral from sludge, but which either perform inadequately (when it comes to removal of toxic heavy metals present in sludge or to phosphorus recovery rates) or are inhibitively expensive, to believe Öhman.

  • Thesis defence: On dioxin formation in thermochemical conversion of biomass, Umeå, Sweden

    Qiuju Gao, kemiska institutionen, försvarar sin avhandling med svensk titel Bildning av dioxiner vid termokemisk omvandling av biomassa.

    Engelsk titel: On dioxin formation in thermochemical conversion of biomass.

    Fakultetsopponent: Bogdan Dlugogorski professor, School of Engineering and Information, Technology, Murdoch University.

    Huvudhandledare: Stina Jansson.

    2016-04-29 kl. 10:00
  • This Is Bio4Energy

    Bio4Energy wants to thank its members, stakeholders and funders for its five first years of building a research environment that links up key academic and business organisations actively trying to promote biorefinery—the invention and production of advanced biofuels, bio-based chemicals and materials from woody biomass or organic waste.

    To do so, and to spread the word further afield, Bio4Energy would like to show you two short films that are an attempt to summarise who we are and what we do.

    In film one, the Bio4Energy programme manager takes viewers by the hand and describes the fundaments of the research environment. We also step into the working world of three Bio4Energy Research and Development Platforms: Feedstock, Pretreatment and Fractionation, as well as Catalysis and Separation. We visit the scientists’ greenhouse were hybrid aspen plants are grown to make better trees for bio-based production and Sweden's only pilot plant for the roasting of biomass—torrefaction—for the ease of handling and converting woody and starch-based biomass into fuels and chemicals.

    Bio4Energy - A Biorefinery Research Environment from Bio4Energy on Vimeo.


    In film two, we meet the coordinator of the Bio4Energy Graduate School who says students interested in biorefinery based on wood or organic waste will get a "unique" experience in the Bio4Energy Graduate School. We hear about the work on Bio4Energy's "process" platforms: The Bio4Energy Thermochemical and Biochemical Platform, respectively; and tour the thermal conversion whizzes' labs at Umeå University.

    Bio4Energy - Biorefinery Research & Education from Bio4Energy on Vimeo.

    Since June 2015, Bio4Energy has a new page in the Swedish-language section of the Umeå University website. From there, most of Bio4Energy's press releases in Swedish may be accessed. There are also an interview with the Bio4Energy programme manager for the years 2010-2016 and general information about Bio4Energy. An even more recent interviewcan be accessed on page 9 and 10 of the latest issue of Tänk magazine in which This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. predicts that societies will have become bio-based in the year of 2065.

    Bio4Energy has gone from being a constellation of 44 enthusiastic researchers in 2009, to becoming a full-blown research environment with about 240 members across three universities, four research institutes and with a network of industrial partners in Sweden and beyond.

    Thank you to our sponsors, members and stakeholders for believing in Bio4Energy!

  • Transformation of Sweden's Energy System Discussed at Luleå in August

    Akkats power station Credit LTUAkkats hydro power station far north in Sweden at Jokkmokk, owned by state-run energy utility Vattenfall. Photo by courtesy of Vattenfall AB.Bio4Energy researchers and industrial partners are calling on energy stakeholders—representatives of Swedish authorities, business and industry, research institutes and academics—to join them 23-24 Augustat Luleå, Sweden, for talks on how far the country has come in implementing a sustainable energy system.

    Summarising the economic, social and environmental side of things, as well as discussing ways forward, does not sound like an easy task to accomplish in two days, but conference coordinator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. believes it can be done.

    "The transformation of the Swedish energy system is a great undertaking and requires a broad start. There will be 50 research presentations and a number of keynote [addresses] by people from industry and authorities and politicians. People can expect to hear about systems' studies, analyses of political support measures, how to promote biofuels and the development of markets and trade", according to Lundmark, who is a professor at the Luleå University of Technology.

    Ibrahim Balyan, Sweden's minister for energy, and Tomas Kåberger, Swedish energy profile and professor at Chalmers University of Technology, are posted as keynote speakers on the website of the Swedish Association for Energy Economics Conference 2016, and the event is subtitled 'Current and future challenges of energy systems in Sweden and neighbouring countries'.
  • Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting 2016, Umeå, Sweden