Plenary Sessions Preview

David Baxter

Monday 9 May | 13:45 CEST

1. Plenary AP1:
Biomass Conversion to Biobased Products

Biorefineries have been in existence for many decades, however in recent years a great deal of research and development effort has been undertaken to discover new ways to produce new bio-based products and many more bio-based products that can be used in place of products derived either from fossil origins or natural products that have a large negative environmental impact. This first plenary session of the conference will address two specific projects.

The first project aims to produce cellulose fibres from locally sourced biomass feedstocks such as bio-based wastes, such as wheat straw, as well as seaweed which can be a problem resulting from over intensive agricultural practices. The cellulose fibres would replace cotton fibre which has a very negative environment impact in terms of pesticides utilisation, water demand and land use. Details of the biorefinery process studied within the HEREWEAR project will be given along with testing results of the cellulose fibres produced.

The second biorefinery project to be presented involves the production of a bio-based substitute for fossil-derived asphalt using lignin that in many cases is combusted rather than used in any sort of upgraded form. The CHAPLIN project has reached the stage of building sections of road, in some cases for industrial trials of performance, including techno-economic and life cycle, compared with traditional asphalt roads. Business cases are examined for combination with existing pulp and paper manufacture and for advanced generation biorefineries where higher-value applications for lignin could improve economic performance.


Tuesday 10 May | 10:15 CEST

2. Plenary BP1:
Availability and Supply of Sustainable Bioenergy in the EU and Beyond

For any bio-product, biofuel or bioenergy to be produced there inevitably needs to a supply of biomass that is sustainable in respect of environmental, economic and social considerations. With ever increasing pressure to replace fossil-derived products and fossil energy to tackle climate change, biomass availability and the competing demands for its supply are becoming ever more critical. This plenary session will address three studies into biomass supply.

The first presentation will look at how biomass use for bio-based markets can be achieved without harming biodiversity. Scenarios have been considered for bio-feedstocks availability to 2050 with priority given to include biomaterials and non-transport applications before any remaining biomass is used for biofuels. Results seem to show that for all sectors in Europe, including transport, there appears to be sufficient biomass available without adversely impacting biodiversity.

The second presentation considers Europe’s “Fit for 55” policy and the capacity for advanced biofuels production for marine, aviation and road transport in 2030. The study takes into account competing demands for biowastes and biomass residues from the different transport sectors and recognises the particular challenge of invalid claims for virgin vegetable oils being declared as used cooking oils (UCOs).

The final presentation comprises a summary of the main results of the recently completed MAGIC European project focused on industrial crops grown on marginal land. The project has either developed itself or improved on key existing tools for use by relevant stakeholders, including a crops database, a decision support system, maps of marginal land in Europe and the Bio2Match tool. The project considers ten biomass value chains.


Tuesday 10 May | 13:45 CEST

3. BP2:
Bioenergy Solutions for the Economy

As the utilisation of biomass for biomaterials, biochemicals, biofuels and bioenergy significantly increases a bioeconomy is emerging that should in large part take over from the fossil-based economy that has evolved over several decades. Part of the shift to bio-based feedstocks to supply the new industries will use new technologies whilst retrofitting of existing processes currently using fossil fuels is an option in many cases.

The first presentation in this bioeconomy plenary session addresses retrofitting bioenergy into existing industries, both fossil-based and first-generation bio-conversion processes. The European BIOFIT project has been assessing ten retrofit cases across five industry sectors in direct collaboration with relevant industrial partners. In nearly all cases it has been shown that a retrofit approach is economically feasible with significant CAPEX reductions.

A dedicated digital support tool has been developed for each of five sectors which allows a for quick economic assessment of possible projects and potential CO2 savings.

The second presentation looks at the integration of biogas systems into the wider energy supply infrastructure and the particular benefit of being able to operate biogas plants in a flexible manner to compensate for the intermittency of renewables such as solar and wind. A summary will be given of the complexity of modern biogas systems in terms of technical requirements for meeting fluctuating energy demand and will include a potential role that individual biogas plants could play as part of a large virtual power plant in local distribution energy grids. A view to future developments will be offered.


Wednesday 11 May | 10:15 CEST

4. Plenary CP1:
Technology Innovation for Biomass Conversion to Bioenergy

This plenary session is dedicated to technologies for the conversion of biomass to bioenergy. Technologies for this sector have been developed and in many cases used commercially for many years, although improvements in conversion efficiency are always possible.

The first presentation is focused on using an innovative design of an updraft gasifier coupled with dedicated gas cleaning system to achieve higher overall conversion efficiency through the use of a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). The system described is designed to operate in the power output range of 0.5 MW to 10 MW, typically for decentralised applications. Both greater fuel flexibility and load flexibility are also achieved. The presentation will cover specific achievements of the HiEff-Biopower project.

Anaerobic digestion and the production of biogas is well established in Europe using mainly large-scale AD installations designed to treat all kinds of waste, agricultural residues and crops. It is estimated that by 2050 about 30-40% of the EU’s gas needs could be met biogas/biomethane.


This presentation describes the achievements of the DiBiCoo project that is working towards preparing new markets in other countries, mainly in developing and emerging economies around the world where biogas plants have not yet become established to treat wastes and residues. All aspects of biogas processes from feedstock collection and pretreatment to fuel or energy generation will be addressed.

The third presentation covers an overview of torrefaction processes and the specific characteristics of each that lend themselves to treating different forms of biomass and the consequent success of each process. A summary of business models of technology suppliers and operators will be given. The thermal efficiency and economics of modern torrefaction plants is similar to pellet production plants thanks in the main to the beneficial use of volatile gas and concomitant energy savings. Moreover, the range of feedstocks that can be accepted for each torrefaction plant is much wider than for wood pellet plants.


Wednesday 11 May | 13:45 CEST

5. Plenary CP2:
Biomass Conversion to Intermediate Bioenergy Carriers

In many processes using biomass as a feedstock the first key product can be either an intermediate energy carrier or a high value process residue that is subsequently used to either generate energy or to produce bioproducts. A number of intermediate energy carriers/residues exist and this plenary session will highlight two such products.

The first presentation addresses process design for the conversion of sludge from paper production to advanced biofuels that can be used in aviation, marine and road transport applications where electrification is not feasible, or where gaseous biofuels do not result in large enough reductions in carbon footprints, at least in the short term.

A conceptional design process has been developed to explore the economic and environmental sustainability aspects of this value chain. The main results of the MOTOR project will be presented.

In the second presentation, a continuous hydrothermal process is described where operating parameters have been carefully selected to avoid the commonly encountered problems of reactor plugging due to coke formation and catalyst deactivation. Operating parameters to ensure continuous operation will be presented for a process using a range of biomass feedstocks including organic urban residues, forestry residues and algae, to produce a biocrude suitable for further processing to advanced liquid biofuels. The drop-in fuel potential along with the associated physical and chemical properties of the end-product biofuels will be reported.


Thursday 12 May | 10:15 CEST

6. Plenary DP1:
Different Aspects of the Transition to a Further Decarbonized Economy

Various factors need to be considered on the road to decarbonizing the economy, not least the potential reduction in carbon emissions compared with existing fossil processes in the current world economy. Many analyses have been carried out over the years into the roles and impacts of biomass use in the battle to reduce the negative effects fossil-derived emissions and of consequent climate change and three approaches are presented in this plenary session.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a key tool used to assess and compare environmental benefits various technologies and energy pathways. The first presentation considers four key questions in LCA studies to identify bio-based products that will be fully functional in a defossilised economy. The challenge is how to navigate through the period of transition from fossil to defossilised economy. What happens during the transition could very well be different from after the transition period has ended. Key questions addressed include whether certain bio-based products will still be needed, can biodiversity impacts be limited to acceptable levels, do bio-based products have a competitive edge and can new production pathways be successful without substantial monetary credits.

The second presentation assesses the status of the bioeconomy and prospects in Sub-Saharan countries. One example used is the Eastern Africa Regional Bioeconomy Strategy (RBS) which integrates the Africa Agenda 2063 with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


The strategy covers commitments to environmental sustainability, climate change adaptation and mitigation and building a sustainable circular economy by optimising innovative use of biomass from agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and municipal waste, while ensuring food security, sustainability in agriculture, health and well-being and sustainable energy. Future policies in the region are also considered, including trade, jobs and capacity building.

The final presentation in this plenary session is drawn from an analysis carried out within IEA Bioenergy member countries on how bioenergy as a component of the total energy supply has progressed over the last two decades. The analysis looks at total energy supply and therefore includes electricity, total fuel/heat consumption, and transport energy use, in relation to all other energy sources. Factors such as local conditions prevailing in each country, including population density, land use distribution, topography and climate conditions have important influences on biomass availability and its use as well the way energy mixes have evolved over the decades. The impacts of biomass and bioenergy on energy supply in the IEA Bioenergy member countries will be summarized.