Sustainability, algae, asian markets and more – highlights from side events at EUBC&E

Over 120 participants attended the Algae Event 2014

In addition to the official conference program, the 22nd European Biomass Conference and Exhibition hosted a series of parallel and “challenge” events throughout the week,  read below the main highlights from these events.

Developing sustainable biomass chains in a growing biobased economy

This parallel event shared the practical experiences of the Netherlands Program of Sustainable Biomass (NBSB). An overview presentation showed the key findings and recommendations in biomass availability, sustainability impacts, certification and the feasibility of a business case. Three case studies on straw and switchgrass (Ukraine), bamboo and torrefaction (Colombia) and sugarcane for ethanol (Brazil) showed the diversity in lessons learned between the projects. Overall conclusion is that projects demonstrated that producing sustainable biomass is possible in all parts of the world, when carefully designed. This was confirmed as well in other presentations. Examples of best practices are the use of bioenergy projects for rural development (e.g. enhancing income, energy access), systems combining food with energy production or rehabilitation of degraded lands. The added value of these integrated systems, and the need for more project examples on this, was emphasized.There was in overall a positive agreement that the European targets on renewable energy and biofuels can be achieved in time. Also positively, many initiatives (e.g. policies, certification systems) have been developed in the last years to frame what sustainability is. At the same time, there is a need to create more coherence in the understanding, requirements and targets for the biobased economy – without making the distinction between fuels, heat, electricity or other end-uses – and its sustainability requirements.It was recognized that the transition towards innovative, best practice projects requires additional time and effort – especially compared to business as usual. The importance of a structured bankable business case was stressed in the discussion, as well as the need for financial support to realize the transition towards more sustainable use of resources. Solutions for access to financing could be the bundling of projects or coming to a shared language between investors and bioenergy project developers.

The report on the lessons learnt can be downloaded here .

EU-Asia Biomass Development Forum

This parallel event provided extensive information of the present state of bioenergy implementation and bioenergy and bioproducts R&D plans in several  asian countries: China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore. Moreover, the representative of EERA-Bioenergy gave an information of objectives and activities of that organisation, stressing the present interest of EERA-Bioenergy to extend the present actions to other areas, in particular Asia and Latinoamerica.There are large existing biomass resources in these countries and an increasing interest and fast growth of bioenergy. Most of the countries have developed a bioenergy implementation plans with ambitious targets for this decade (the current production of biofuels is expected to increased by almost ten times in China by 2020).In the R&D field, there are similar activities and programs between Europe and the Asian countries focused on advanced technologies for electricity and biofuels production. India highlighted its particular interest in developing decentralized electricity production. The interest for development of other bioproducts and for biorefineries is also growing in most of the Asian countries.Large interest was expressed by different participants european and asian participants during the final discussion, to establish collaborative actions in the future. The representative of EERA-Bioenergy and chairman of the Forum offered EERA-Bioenergy as a framework to try to identify possible future R&D actions on the basis of the common interest of the different countries.

Algae event

The Algae Event co-organized by EUBC&E, Re-Cord, the EnAlgae project and Eubia on 25th June attracted over 120 participants. With 22 oral presentations and 11 posters, this event presented the most up to date results of ongoing research and industrial activities globally, from cultivation to conversion methods, products and applications, economics and finally sustainability.

Among the main highlights, Vinicius Valente presented the current status of Intesusal, a demonstration project to produce 90-120 tonnes of algae per hectare per year, which is on track to realize a 1 hectare pilot unit, with the ambition to develop a 11 hectare business case by 2015. Located in Southern Portugal, the project uses glycerol as feedstock for the growth of heterotrophic organisms, then algae are grown subsequently on the biomass and nutrients generated by these organisms to produce biodiesel. 0.8 kg o biomass can be obtained from 1 kg of glycerol. The first lines of fermenters, raceways and photobioreactors should be installed soon and the first demo trials are expected for this October.

Kristin Sternberg, German Agency for Renewable Resources, Germany presented the status of the EnAlgae map, an effort to create a database of who does what in algae activities in North West Europe. She showed the results of an interesting survey on 264 algae stakeholders in Europe. Most of research and demo activities are focused on microalgae development, while macroalgae are currently developed in France and UK. Matteo Prussi, ReCord Italy, presented the analysis of pyrolysis oil obtained from algae. An interesting industrial demonstration project now under development in Chile was also presented. Carried out by a public private consortium, the Algaefuels project is developing systems for the massive culture of micro algae for the production of biofuel and high-value compounds, including the realization of two demonstration pilot plants of a size of 1ha each. The project is currently in the middle stage and interesting results were obtained. The production of oily biomass with CO2 from a coal power plant has been demonstrated and the biomass was characterized; to date 600 kg of algae were produced at the first pilot site, while at the second plant, 183 liters of biodiesel were produced, and the oil was characterized in order to demonstrate its suitability for fuel usage.

Can bioenergy pay back carbon debt in time? Challenges of temporal aspects of greenhouse gas emissions from bioenergy

The SUPERGEN Bioenergy hub hosted the event “Can Bioenergy pay back carbon debt in time? Challenges of temporal aspects of greenhouse gas emissions from bioenergy” attended by scientists, decision makers and stakeholders from within the European Bioenergy community. The event started with an introductory presentation from SUPERGEN bioenergy hub director Patricia Thornley, before expert presentations from Uwe Fritsche (IINAS, Germany), Alessandro Agostini (European Commission, Netherlands), Gerfried Jungmeier (Joanneum Research, Austria) and Carlo Hamelinck (Ecofys).

There was a consensus that bioenergy is “carbon neutral” in the long term, but there were issues with some forest bioenergy systems in the short to medium term. The “cumulative emissions” framing of climate change was used to argue that every unit of greenhouse gas (GHG) released had to be accommodated in an increasingly tight GHG budget and so with bioenergy it was important to be confident that releases of (even biogenic) carbon did not excessively deplete the remaining emission space.

While the long term emission balance was the most relevant parameter for the global carbon budget determining global mean temperature rise, other impacts of GHG releases (including on biodiversity and ocean acidification) were strong drivers for a medium term (5-20 years) reduction that necessitated taking account of these dynamics. A table was presented from a joint IEA bioenergy task meeting that identified the bioenergy systems and time frames where there was most potential for GHG emission to exceed anticipated levels.

The GHG balance was noted to be particularly sensitive to the carbon intensity of the substituted fossil fuel, forest growth rate, biomass conversion efficiency and residue decay rate.

However, there were strong arguments that there was a need to look beyond bioenergy in appropriate policy responses. Producers do not necessarily know in advance how their feedstock will be used and forestry is an industry with multiple products, so a more holistic approach to forest management is necessary and a consequential rather than an attributional approach to LCA was more appropriate for assessing the long term impact of bioenergy policy. This would need to take into account other issues, such as: competition for land between food, energy and other purposes; competition with other renewables and the impacts of intensified management.

Work was presented which had considered the impact of forest management (increased thinning and decreased rotation length) in Austria on a combined set of energy and product services (including wood for paper production and furniture). This showed some increases in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of land when wood was partitioned for fuelwood from the forest system compared to a “business as usual” scenario. However, it was important to take into account the forest type and it was noted that existing IPCC guidelines already address changes in forest C storage pools and land use, although this was not “labelled” as bioenergy. It was recommended that a systematic approach to the forest system that simultaneously considered energy and wood products was the most appropriate methodological approach.

The strategic role of bioenergy for global future energy provision was emphasized in the face of diminishing (and increasingly expensive) fossil fuel reserves and the high level of global land availability was contrasted with the very small proportion used for bioenergy at present. It was pointed out that the indirect and marginal impacts of bioenergy systems were frequently considered in calculations, but rarely in the fossil equivalent comparison. Indirect land use change (ILUC) related to biofuels was discussed and it was argued that, even when this was taken into account, there was still scope for substantial greenhouse gas savings with biofuel pathways, but that these might not be sufficient to meet future EU thresholds and so would not be incentivized in future. It was also argued that ILUC was a “one-off” debt that was repaid during future production, whereas fossil fuels can never repay their carbon debt. In that sense it was argued that ILUC was a carbon “investment” worth making, particularly if safeguards to promote biofuels with low indirect impacts were in place.

There followed a lively panel discussion that covered the importance of integrating food and fuel applications in overall land use systems, the relevant life cycle comparators and the importance of looking at the whole forest system.

Chemical Analysis in Bioenergy Conversion Processes

The workshop, taking place for the fourth consecutive time at the EUBC&E, brought together experts from academia, applied research and industry for sharing information, results, knowledge and associated experiences from the important area of supporting analytical tools for bioenergy conversion processes. The meeting started by stating general analytical needs in demonstration processes closely related to industrial implementation. Following that, general aspects of gas analysis were presented and ways for more intense collaboration in the future development of analytical tools and especially in their validation against references and standards or benchmarks were intensively discussed. The outcomes of some collaborative measurements of two or more partners who brought different analytical methods for the same analytes to operation were shown. Always crucial is the funding for this kind of supporting activities which take place most often in the shadow of the larger projects. Another section of the workshop dealt with tools that support the analytical methods itself such as test gas generation for calibration and validation of on-line methods. Other methods were for instance tools for diluting the sampled gases. These side along topics are seldom brought to a conference, but sharing information on these supplementary tools will really help to shorten development times and associated cost and are very important to secure the analytical work. The workshop was then continued with the presentation of new developments and updates for recent projects in the area of on-line tar analysis, a topic that started these meetings in the very beginning. There is still a quite way to go in these developments but as stated in the very beginning, that on-line tools are not just a wish but a necessity for complex plant development and operation, we see the community on a good way. There was intense discussions throughout the workshop in a trustful atmosphere so that we can say concluding that this challenge event was really successful. We thank the conference organization for the support and the opportunity to have this meeting with the EUBCE. Further information on future activities such as internet based webinars, upcoming collaborative measurements, state of the art of analytical tools and a forum for further discussion is available at


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