Tag Archive for: Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies

Bio4Enery Going Strong: New Scientists, Collaborations

Bio4Energy scientists and advanced students met at Umeå, Sweden, ready to form new research collaborations. 

Bio4Energy’s most recent platform leaderNils Skoglund, opened up for collaboration with Environment and Nutrient Recycling; and with his team presenting new lines of research.

New Bio4Energy researchers, bringing the membership count to 225, took the stage; pitching and matching.

The research environment is stronger than ever, taking its collaborations, as well as own education and training to new levels.

Moreover, expect news in terms of Bio4Energy’s outreach and online presence to follow in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

Phase Out of Fossil Coal in Sweden’s Iron, Steel Industries on Cards

A project consortium including research groups, technology development companies, plant owners and iron and steel industry; is about to take a large step toward phasing out the use of fossil coal in the iron and steel industries in Sweden.

Thanks to a substantial grant from the Swedish Energy Agency, the partners will be able to deliver a reactor concept and a roadmap detailing the way in which to implement a switch from fossil coal to biocarbon in existing district-heating plants, using fluidised-bed gasification technology.

Whereas fossilised coal is extracted from the Earth’s interior in mining operations, oftentimes transported over long distances and a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions; biocarbon is high-temperature treated biomass from woody residue or industrial bio-based waste that will be sourced regionally by the partners. 

In fact, when treated at a temperature range of 500 – 900 degrees Celsius, biomass becomes almost pure solid carbon and earns the name “biocarbon”. It is seen as carbon “neutral” under the current regulatory framework and so the expectation is that the new technology will deliver net zero emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas. 

Seven-to-nine per cent of global emissions of carbon dioxide hail from iron and steel making operations. In Sweden, where the sector is both an important employer and provider of exports, this figure is 12 per cent.

Bio4Energy’s role in the four-year project is to map out what conditions are needed for biocarbon to be a cost-effective alternative to fossil coal, via modeling and laboratory trials. Notably, the research results will show which biomass properties and mixing behavior inside the reactors are optimal. Professor Kentaro Umeki of Luleå University of Technology will lead these efforts, starting now.

“The reaction [inside the reactor or boiler] has to be precisely controlled for the quality and productivity of the steel to be high”, Umeki said in a conference call with Bio4Energy Communications.

“We have been working for six-seven years to optimise the biocarbon properties and yield”, he added, with reference to other projects, running or concluded.

For all the talk about climate change and fossil fuel phase out, Umeki said, there was an important point that tended to be overlooked in the societal debate.

“It is extremely important to know that carbon is still needed as the transition happens. Almost the only source of renewable carbon is biomass.

“Quite many processes for instance in the petrochemical industry still need carbon, even if you do not see it [as a consumer]. The carbon gotten from biomass is the most cost effective”, he said.

A recent estimate for total biocarbon production needed to replace fossil coal in the sector, put the total to between 200,000 and 300,000 tonnes of biocarbon during the years 2030 – 2045, according to background documentation to the consortium’s grant application.

“At the end of the project, there will be a new reactor concept ready to implement and which will provide the industrial partners with up to 80,000 tonnes per annum of biocarbon and a reduction of CO2 emission of about 290,000 tonnes per year”, it said;

“Thus it becomes clear that the proposed technology can deliver future needs of biocarbon to the iron and steel industries on a national level”.

Consortium partners are: Chalmers University of Technology (lead), Luleå University of Technology, RISE Research Institutes of SwedenBioShareE.ONHöganäs and SSAB.

Quinoa Project Classifies New Building Block for Biorefinery

A long-running research project designed to create the conditions for making renewable fuels, chemicals and pesticides from residues of the agricultural crop quinoa; grown in extreme environments; has hit a major milestone.

Bio4Energy’s long-running ‘Quinoa Project’, started in 2017 by scientists in Sweden and Bolivia, not only has expanded to a multi-partner effort, but also has classified and provided a detailed map of characteristics of a previously unknown bacterium that can be at the base of high value-added biorefinery products.

This bacterium lives on the Andean Altiplano, or high-altitude plateau, of the great mountain range straddling Bolivia and a number of other South American countries. To protect itself from the intense sunlight and high salt concentration of its environment, it produces a type of polymer (a base component of many living organisms), which the scientists believe can be at the base of a number of high value-added biorefinery applications. It is this “exopolysaccharide” polymer that can become use products down the line.

“We believe that this type of polymer will be useful for producing products of high market value. We can think about applications such as fine chemicals, medical materials and food additives”, said Carlos Martín Medina, Umeå University; who shares the project leadership with Cristhian Carrasco of the Bolivian Universidad Mayor de San Andrés.

This means that scientists across the world who have the competence and access to infrastructure, with the classification of this bacterium, Bacillus atrophaeus, have the possibility to use the new research results for making bio-based applications from crops grown in extreme environments.

In Bolivia and other South American countries, a good part of the population are farmers who rely on the production of the protein-rich staple crop quinoa for their subsistence.

One the one hand, demand for this health food from the rest of the world has dwindled as importers such as the U.S.A. have turned to growing the crop domestically. On the other, important negative environmental consequences have sprung from the quinoa production, including depleted and contaminated soils, due to monoculture and use of fossil resource-based fertilizers, as well as a problematic amount of agricultural waste.

Several of the governments of South America see great promise in biorefinery. This means the production of fuels, chemicals and materials; using renewable starting materials such as organic waste, instead of fossil resources such as oil or gas.

However, methods and tools for converting agricultural residue, such as quinoa stalks, must be invented. Given the harsh environment of the high Altiplano—a salt flat situated at an altitude of 3000 – 4500 metre above sea level—the size of the task is great.

In a next step, researchers at Umeå University, Sweden will investigate which industries may benefit most from the present discovery. In other words, use applications will be identified.

The present project is a collaboration between scientists at Umeå University, Bolivian Universidad Mayor de San Andrés of Bolivia and consultant researchers at the RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.

The overall Quinoa Project enjoys backing from the Swedish Research Council, Bio4Energy and the Swedish International Development Agency.

The collaboration partners have described the identification, isolation and characterisation of the new bacterial strain in the following scientific article;Chambi D, Lundqvist J, Nygren E, Romero-Soto L, Marin K, Gorzsás A, Hedenström M, Carlborg M, Broström M, Sundman O, Carrasco C, Jönsson LJ, Martín C. 2022. Production of Exopolysaccharides by Cultivation of Halotolerant Bacillus atrophaeus BU4 in Glucose- and Xylose-Based Synthetic Media and in Hydrolysates of Quinoa StalksFermentation 8(2):79.