Plenary Sessions Preview

Preview by
Dr. David Baxter
Former European Commission JRC, EUBCE Executive Committee Member

Monday 5 June | 13:45 CEST

1. Plenary Session AP1:
Sustainable Biomass Resources with Improved Soils

Mapping of land use is a common way for monitoring land use, land use change and within the context of EUBCE, mapping is widely used to measure biomass availability.

One of the two plenary presentations in the session looks at how to undertake mapping for the purpose of identifying areas of contaminated land which is in need of cleaning or of stabilisation. Using this mapping approach sites can be selected as being suitable for bioremediation through cultivation of biofuel crops. The method developed further permits types of contaminants to be identified and soil properties determined. Mapping information is used within the GOLD project where biomass production and capture of contaminants are monitored experimentally, thereby allowing phytoremediation potential to be assessed for different scenarios.

The other plenary presentation in this session addresses waste treatment by integration of anaerobic digestion and slow pyrolysis to give multiple products including biomethane, ammonium sulphate and biochar. The biomethane can be used as a fuel and a replacement for natural gas whilst ammonium sulphate can be used as an organic fertiliser and biochar can be used for soil amendment, and most importantly to store carbon in soils. Soil quality, especially with regard to carbon content, has been steadily degraded on agricultural land over many decades and particularly because of increased intensification of agriculture. A number of approaches have been made to reverse steadily decreasing soil quality, however more needs to be done. Use of biochar represents a promising method for adding carbon to the soil while at the same time providing for carbon storage to combat climate change.

Tuesday 6 June | 10:15 CEST

2. Plenary Session BP1:
Socio-Economic Aspects in Circular Economy

There will be three oral presentations in the plenary session which focusses on a circular economy.

The first presentation will look at whether existing indicators used to monitor the wider circular economy are adequate to see with any detail the roles and impacts of bio-based products. The study upon which the presentation is based follows on from earlier work that defined nine metrics to assess circularity, which can be expanded to 25 micro-level indicators derived from other reported studies, yet even the additional indicators fail to account for important characteristics of bio-based systems that are renewable, expand on cascading use of biomass and incorporate organic recycling.The need for further development of indicators to identify more accurately bio-based systems will be discussed.

A presentation on the social aspects in the circular economy stresses the essential need to incorporate social-economic aspects along with purely economic and environmental sustainability impacts into any sustainability assessment. Gender is a key aspect of social sustainability. Gender equality and the assessment of social risks are addressed for a number of bioenergy and bioeconomy projects funded by the EU and compared with selected countries in the global south. Similarities and differences will be discussed.

The final presentation in this session focusses on perennial cropping systems and how these can fulfil desired ecosystem services in terms of both products and income opportunities for the farmer/land owner (referred to private goods) and wider public goods including carbon storage, reduction of erosion risk and increased biodiversity. There are however several hurdles and barriers to setting up successful perennial cropping systems, not least policy maker understanding and subsequent lack of policy support, in particular with regard to the benefits to be gained in simultaneously increasing biomass feedstock production, mitigating climate change and countering loss of biodiversity.

For more on this and the other plenaries, have a look at the detailed conference programme.

Tuesday 6 June | 13:45 CEST

3. Plenary Session BP2:
Bioenergy and Biobased Products

Gasification is a key process for the conversion of a range of feedstocks to useful intermediate products that can subsequently be used to build a variety of products. One of the biggest challenges has been to scale up the gasification process to achieve commercial success. Enerkem has developed a bubbling fluidised bed system up to commercial demonstration scale in Edmonton that can use all sorts of agricultural and forestry residues as well as industrial and commercial wastes and mixed waste plastics. The presentation will cover all the main sub-processes in the conversion of raw feedstock into useful fuels and bio-based products, including methanol and ethanol at the demonstration facility.

In addition, an overview of target products and markets as well as the status of Enerkem’s most advanced projects in Canada and Europe will be given.

The EU BRANCHES project has identified drivers and barriers for the integration of various technologies into farm and rural community bioeconomies, these technologies including biogas, hybrid energy solutions, biomass heating and CHP and advanced thermochemical conversion processes. Results from the research provide factors that may or may not have an impact on whether introduction of a bioeconomy solution could be successful. In this plenary presentation, the identified drivers and barriers affecting introduction of biomass conversion processes into rural communities will be given in terms of demographic, economic, political, ecological, socio-economic and technological factors.

Wednesday 7 June | 10:15 CEST

4. Plenary Session CP.1:
Biomass Conversion to Bioenergy

This plenary session is dedicated to technologies for the conversion of biomass to bioenergy. Small-scale pellet boilers are installed in very many single home and multi-unit buildings across Europe. The attractiveness and success of the small-scale systems is achieved in large part by their ease of use, high thermal efficiencies and above all to their very low emissions that in the majority of cases are far below the EU Ecodesign Regulation. The plenary presentation will provide comparisons of existing generation with emerging best available technologies in the Austrian context.

Emerging technologies are aiming at emission-free pellet combustion as far as CO, gaseous organic compounds and particulate matter are concerned, and the technology approaches to achieve zero emissions will be discussed.

Gasification is again the topic of a plenary presentation and this time involves development of technology for a dual fluidised bed steam gasification system from pilot to demonstration scale, whereby the installation can receive biomass and waste feedstocks in a 1MW plant. The challenges of feedstock preparation, feeding to the gasification unit, gas cleaning and conditioning are discussed. In parallel, process flow simulation has been conducted to determine mass end energy balances, as well as raw gas quality, and to reduce experimental time and risks involved in scaling up to the 1 MW system.

The final presentation in the session addresses the large potential for expansion of biogas production in Europe up to 2030 and how this might be achieved. The presenter will describe how it should be possible to expand from the current 20 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) biogas production to 100 mtoe in 2030 using a much higher proportion of manure and animal slurries than now, as well as lignocellulosic biomass, which in some cases will involve additional feedstock pretreatments prior to the biogas process. One of the big drivers for the scale-up of biogas production is the storage potential for biogas, or biomethane, the refined form of biogas, and the integrated use of the stored gas to balance electricity grids that are increasingly dominated by variable inputs from wind and solar sources. The added benefit of the utilisation of CO2, derived from biogas upgrading to biomethane, in the production of for example e-fuels will also be discussed.

Wednesday 7 June | 13:45 CEST

5. Plenary Session CP.2:
Bumpy Road Ahead: Preparing for the Updated Renewable Energy Directive

Although the revision to the Renewable Energy Directive was finalized just in 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for an additional revision less than three years later. The Renewable Energy Directive, also known as RED, is the primary legislation regulating renewable energy in the EU and determines the sustainability criteria for biomass that is used for bioenergy. As such, RED is perhaps the single most important piece of legislation for the bioenergy sector.

As RED is a directive, it needs to be transposed into national law in each Member States; however, partly due to delays in secondary legislation, nearly every country missed the transposition deadline of 30 June 2021. The roll-out of REDII which was adopted in 2018 has been far from smooth and has needed to rely on last minute extensions and phase- in periods as operators have struggled to get certified and the release of standards that certification schemes themselves needed to meet, were delayed by nine months. Now a deal on REDIII, which was proposed on 14 July 2021, has been informally reached by the co-legislators in March and is waiting for the final sign-off by the EU before it too will need to be transposed into national law. What are the changes and where does this leave the industry?

This plenary session is designed to explains the impact of the recent EU legislation on the bioenergy sector, the state of play on the political level, and the views of industry while exploring how the legislation will be implemented and what impacts this is likely to have in the future. The session will be organized into two parts, a short presentation on the latest RED updates and a panel discussion.

The plenary session will open with a short presentation on what RED is, what it covers, how it works, and what will change from the version passed in 2018 to the one that is set to be adopted this year. The presentation will recap all of the latest developments coming out of Brussels and provide useful analysis.

After the presentation, the session will shift to a panel discussion with a representative from a voluntary scheme for RED certification and two industry experts to get an inside look at the application of RED. The session will also dig into the following questions:

  • What are the biggest challenges facing industry?
  • What have been the challenges for scheme operators?
  • How is the regulatory environment impacting stakeholders?
  • What are the main concerns regarding what will come next once this new version of RED enters into force?

All these questions and more will be discussed by our distinguished panel, join this session to learn more.

Thursday 8 June | 10:15 CEST

6. Plenary Session DP.1:
Biomass Conversion to Intermediate Bioenergy Carriers and Sustainable Biofuels

The first presentation in this plenary sessions assesses the continued progress made with fast pyrolysis for the production of bio-oil and of engine performance when bio-oil is used in compression-ignition engines coupled with electricity generators for balancing demands in electricity grids fed in large part by fluctuating renewable electricity from solar and wind farms. The work described here covers engine performance in terms of efficiency, environmental emissions and corrosion of engine components as a function of the feedstock used to produce the bio-oil in the BTG fast pyrolysis process.

The consequences of the specifics of engine design and the addition of ethanol to reduce bio-oil viscosity will be discussed. Results will be presented for a single cylinder engine and a 50kW four-cylinder prototype, including heat recovery and flue gas treatment for low emissions.
Hydrothermal liquefaction is the topic of the second plenary presentation in this session and looks specifically at depolymerisation of lignin which is a major by-product of the pulp industry and very often only used as a combustion fuel for energy. Results will be presented from laboratory experiments under various batch and continuous conditions with black liquor and various model substances and which illustrate the range of compositions of the organic phase derived from the original lignin with high molecular weights achieved at the highest processing temperatures and a clear correlation between molecular weight and temperature and holding times.

These results permit the establishment of a reaction pathway which can describe lignin depolymerisation in greater detail than previously reported.

Mechanical catalytic conversion (MECC) is a process that is a process that can be used for the direct conversion of solid lignocellulosic biomass into high energy drop-in hydrocarbon fuels. This plenary presentation will highlight some of the advantages of MECC over the likes of pyrolysis, hydrotreated vegetable oils (HVO) and fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), which include economic considerations. Results will be presented from a 150 litres an hour test plant using a range of wood wastes which yield a fuel that directly complies with marine fuel specification. An additional step to remove sulphur gives a fuel that meets the European automotive diesel fuel specification. Further development of processing aimsd at reaching aviation fuel quality. The bio-charcoal by-product could be considered for carbon sequestration.

For more on this and the other plenaries, have a look at the detailed conference programme.