The 9th Stakeholder Plenary Meeting of the European Technology and Innovation Platform Bioenergy (ETIP Bioenergy) confirmed the many opportunities already available today to use sustainable biomass for supporting the clean energy transition in Europe. It was complemented by the ADVANCEFUEL Workshop “RESFuels in transport sector decarbonisation” and the Final Forum of the ERA-NET Cofund BESTF3 with a focus on funding the scaling-up of advanced bioenergy technologies.
After some years of hesitation, the sector is now showing concrete signals of a renewed commitment both with new commercial industrial initiatives and in research and innovation.
One and a half year ago, at the previous stakeholder meeting, the discussion was still influenced by the uncertainties of the policy framework at that time. This year, with the REDII and the first delegated acts in place, it is very positive to see that technologies are finally getting to the market and new investments are starting to be announced, although some points of the legislation still need to be fine-tuned, said Patrik Klintbom, Chair of ETIP Bioenergy Steering Committee. There is a substantial amount of sustainable biomass available, the time for action is now and we need to bring all the technologies to the market. In order to succeed we must increase cooperation and join forces in research, innovation, scaling up and demonstration, he continued.
Maria Georgiadou, European Commission DG RDT, emphasized that a vast portfolio of technologies and value chains is available to meet this target and the Commission through its various programs is working to provide the support that is still needed for all the technology readiness levels, to ensure that these solutionscan deliver their expected contribution. In this regard, the bioenergy sector should take advantage of the synergies among the various EU tools that are and will be available in different forms, including not only the well-known Horizon 2020 and the upcoming Horizon Europe Programme, but also several other instrument such as the Investment Plan for Europe, the Structural Funds, the Digital Europe Programme, the Just Transition Fund, InvestEU, the upcoming Innovation Fund, and the EU Finance for Innovators.
The latest trends in advanced bioenergy technologies were presented during the two-days event.
In this regard the updates from Dutch BTG about their new commercial initiatives with fast pyrolysis bio-oil (FBPO) were particularly encouraging. With over 25 years of research and demonstration and after more than 4 years of continuous operation of the first commercial-scale EMPYRO plant delivering stable FBPO, earlier this year BTG announced new plants to be soon built in Finland and in Sweden. The company is even more committed to expanding its portfolio of activities, BTG CEO René Venendaal announced the set-up of a new high-technology company for converting crude pyrolysis oil into diesel fuel suitable for the shipping sector. It will be the first refinery in the world for an advanced marine biofuel based on pyrolysis oil.
Besides technology advances, the opportunities and the current prospects for using advanced biofuels in the refining sector were also presented.
We have an ambition to become CO2 neutral in 2045 and we are working to reduce emission along all the steps of the value chain, said Olov Öhrman, Preem AB, emphasizing that the biomass value chain is very different from the one of the traditional fossil fuel with a specific constellation of actors along the value chain. This complexity offers many opportunities to refiners and not only challenges.
The BTG and Preen efforts add on announcements by other companies earlier this year, such as UPM, St1, Preem, Clariant, which were presented or discussed at the meeting.
The potential to reduce carbon emissions in transport with renewable fuels was elaborated by the EU innovation project ADVANCEFUEL, coordinated by FNR, aiming to remove barriers to the market rollout of advanced renewable fuels (RESfuels). A considerable CO2 reduction requires the deployment of all renewable options including renewable advanced fuels in addition to an efficiency increase of the transport system. Liquid advanced biofuels become important as short-term solutions particularly for aviation, marine, heavy duty vehicles, as they are lacking alternatives. Their sustainable growth, however, depends largely on the clarity, long-term stability and consistency of the policy framework, which should provide confidence to investors and allow the industry to improve their technical and financial performance.
A whole session of the event explored the challenges and the possible solutions for broadening the biomass feedstock base for Europe.
Every year in the EU about 1.2 billion tonnes of biomass are supplied and used: about 1 billion tonnes come from primary sources (agriculture, forestry, pastures, fisheries and aquaculture), 0.2 billion tonnes from secondary sources (recovered paper, wood and other bio-waste).
Interesting updates were also heard from BECOOL, a Horizon 2020 project which is developing innovative cropping systems to integrate lignocellulosic crops along with traditional food crops in multiannual rotations. Integrating lignocellulosic energy crops in agricultural rotations with traditional food crops can have positive impacts on the fertility of soils, and can contribute to reduce soil erosion and the need for agrochemicals and fertilizers“, said Andrea Parenti, University of Bologna.
A detailed mapping of the available marginal lands in Europe was also presented by Anouk Cormont from Wageningen University & Research. Marginal lands make up around 30% of the EU agricultural lands and the most common reasons for their marginality are limitations to plant rooting, adverse climate and excessive soil moisture. We need to recover those lands and bring them back to productivity. In this regard, growing perennial crops for bioenergy can be an option to diversify farmers’ income, which could also contribute to storing carbon into the soil.
Moderated breakout sessions open to the participants were organized in order to collect stakeholders’ views and advice on what are the most important aspects of the sector which need to be addressed by the Platform’s four working groups on biomass supply, conversion, end use, market and policy. The outcomes of the discussion will provide a valuable guidance to the ETIP Bioenergy Steering Committee as well as the Implementation Working Group 8 linked to the SETPlan in defining the priorities for the next activities and events.
I am looking forward to concrete discussions on how we can accelerate biofuels deployment with a jointly coordinated effort, Patrik Klintbom concluded.
Text by European Technology and Innovation Platform Bioenergy (ETIP Bioenergy)