Event report: European biomass conference in Copenhagen points towards bioeconomy

 Bella Center Copenhagen fascinated and the building complex with its modern architecture offers exactly the right premises for the European Biomass Conference 2013. And as some photos show, the colleagues from green biomass conquered their place in the building and contributed to the peaceful atmosphere. BiomassMuse was represented as a media partner at the event in Copenhagen and some results of this year's industry meeting are presented here.

“Jeg elsker Copenhagen og biomass! | I love Copenhagen and biomass! "

Photo: EU BC&E at the Bella Center

Balance: weather + mood = sunny + clear

Rain in Berlin, bright sunshine in Copenhagen. Visiting the biomass conference couldn't have started better. Whoever climbs out of an airplane in bright sunshine must automatically feel like they are on vacation. Still, my expectations for this year EU BC&E were far less peaceful and I had to because of the upcoming ILUC decision and the new one Anti-dumping duties on biofuels set for heated word battles. I was surprised, but not disappointed! In Copenhagen, the main focus was on the scientific and technical solutions to the existing conflicts.

What struck me particularly positively is that the conflicts between the energetic and material use of biomass did not dominate the debate. In my experience, this harmonious approach is not always the same, and rising lease and raw material prices (wood) occasionally lead to heated discussions between the representatives of the different usage paths. The biomass industry is increasingly recognizing that ultimately everyone benefits from a fair exchange of ideas and the establishment of cooperations. Business professionalism and the search for common interests is much more sustainable than the strenuous battles within the biomass community.

The relationship between European politics and biomass actors also appears to be stable despite the indicated conflict points (import duties, ILUC).

The light breeze and the palm trees in front of the conference building added to the pleasant atmosphere in the auditorium. There are a few impressions to inspire the imagination.

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Fossil and regenerative energy industries must together To take responsibility

Most clearly visible at the EU BC&E were the tensions between the biofuels and petroleum industries. The conflicts between tradition and modernity do not seem to be so easy to overcome. Even so, the use of Bioenergy in the fuel market one of the defining themes of this year's conference.

“The EU is 80 percent dependent on fossil fuels. Bioenergy is an important component in adapting to the energy supply of the future. ”| Giovanni de Santi, EU Commission

The CEO of one of the most innovative companies in the industry said clearly on the opening panel that he doesn't believe in a random media attack by first-generation biofuels. Rather, he sees strategically directed forces at work here who are fairly accepted of new and regenerative representatives prevent in the fuel market (biofuels).

More has to be said here so that the mineral oil industry, to which we owe the rapid economic developments of the past century, is also continually giving more space to new energy sources. The end of oil is not just a theory of climate protection enthusiasts, but the future of our heavily oil-based (dependent!) Society. The current torchbearers and those who are to come have to work together more cooperatively to develop scenarios for a smooth transition!

Gaseous, liquid and solid biomass rely on their intersections

If you like, fossil oil is the distillate of various biomasses that has been created over millions of years. The potential use of biomass is therefore as diverse as the range of uses of petroleum. This complexity of the biomass industry makes it so exciting, but also so difficult to grasp. It is therefore all the more important that the individual representatives of the biomass usage paths exchange information about the common intersections (energy crop cultivation, trade routes, processing technologies, etc.). Only in this way can biomass become a modern successor to oil and take on its social functions. If socially desired, the 21st century can also become a century of biomass as a valuable resource.

Three ongoing biomass trends that have run like a red thread through the 21st EU BC&E are briefly presented:

Street Art Copenhagen: One Mans Trash another mans treasure 

On the way to the bioeconomy

“The future of biomass use lies in modern biorefinery concepts. Biomass offers numerous solutions to the conflicts of many global megatrends. ”| Thomas Dalsgaard, DONG Energy

In my opinion, the key word of the biomass industry for the coming years is definitely Bioeconomy. Admittedly, you no longer have to be a clairvoyant for this inspiration and the puzzle pieces are well put together in front of you if you take a closer look at the material and energetic use of biomass.

3 years ago the German federal government approved the National BioEconomy Research Strategy 2030 started to support the development of the industry from 2010 to 2016 with around 2.4 billion euros.

Biorefineries, the closing of material cycles and the Cascade use of biomass converge in the construction of a bioeconomy and represent the most important trend in the biomass industry.

The bioeconomy was also one of the thematic priorities in Copenhagen and the conference was held under the motto: Setting the course for a biobased economy.

At the EU BC&E, many companies presented their technologies and processes that can be used to advance the development of a bio-based economy. At this point I would like to introduce a technology that is particularly promising: Fast Pyrolysis.

Rapid pyrolysis enables the conversion of a wide range of biomass raw materials into a gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy source. Whether waste, manure or other very moist biomass substrates, the hydrothermal processing of organic matter finds a diverse technology in rapid pyrolysis. It also allows a high degree of flexibility for the use of the organic substrates that are available regionally.

You can find technical details on rapid pyrolysis from the following actors who deal with this process for processing biomass.

If you are interested in another method of building the bioeconomy, please write it in a comment. Or you put another path in one own article .

Country focus Brazil: Number 1 biomass nation

Agriculture, forestry or the cultivation of aquacultures (Algen) is possible in almost all countries of the world and, in contrast to oil production, is not limited to just a few countries. This natural distribution justice not only distinguishes bioenergy, but all renewable energy sources and makes them so attractive.

It is almost banal that there are still regions that have a special talent for growing biomass.

If you look at land area, topography and climatic conditions together, there is one country that beats everyone else in terms of biomass potential: Brazil.

“We don't understand why the EU would like to use bioethanol from sugar cane with 5 percent caps.” | Geraldine Kutas, UNICA

At the European Biomass Conference, the ambitions that Brazil has with regard to the economic use of biomass were clearly felt. Sugar cane is the key player in the Brazilian bioenergy strategy. Through the increased use ofbagasse (Residue from sugar cane processing), Brazil is increasingly using organic waste and increasing the efficiency of its own bioenergy production. With a harvest of 589 million tons of sugar cane last year, around 85 million tons of the valuable waste are generated.

Photo: Geraldine Kutas EU BC&E Copenhagen 

Geraldine Kutas from UNICA (Association of the Brazilian Sugar Cane Industry) bioethanolfrom sugar cane one of the best biofuels of the first generation and plays primarily on its impressive Carbon footprint (biofuels) at. As the only biofuel that is already produced in large quantities, bioethanol from sugar cane already meets the EU's climate requirements for 2018. This means that Brazilian ethanol already produces 65 percent less carbon dioxide than a comparable fossil fuel. This is why Brazil is so surprised why the EU Commission wants to limit the use of first generation biofuels to 5 percent and agrees with many on this point Biofuel associations in this country.

“We must not forget that the use of biofuels is still a global growth market at the beginning of its development.” | Peter Holk Nielsen (CEO, Novozymes)

No other country can look back on such a long and extensive biofuel program as the 5th largest country in the world. The level of the bioethanol blend (E20, E25) is decided anew each year and adapted to the respective framework conditions (sugar prices etc.). Many car models that are used in Brazil come from Europe and have now been converted to Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFV). And Brazil is no longer just relying on biofuels, but also on bio-electricity, which now covers 3 percent of the country's electricity consumption. Geraldine Kutas emphasizes that the share could even increase to 2020 percent by 15.

The relationship between South America and the EU27 will be put to the test in the future when trading biofuels. One of the biggest points of conflict has not yet been resolved: How do European manufacturers deal with countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia or Malaysia (palm oil) already sell the finished biofuels to Europe in the future and are no longer satisfied with the sale of raw materials (palm oil, soy, sugar cane)?

An international market for biofuels may not necessarily reduce the carbon footprint (longer transport routes), but it could lower market prices, thereby increasing consumer interest and thus improving the competitiveness of biofuels with their fossil counterparts. Without a significant drop in the price of biofuels at the petrol station, biofuels will hardly have a chance if the remaining tax breaks on bio-fuels are no longer applicable. And unfortunately, it does not look like an extension of this tax exemption in Germany!

Photo CEO Novozymes at Copenhagen Biomass Conference

Or to put it in the words of Peter Holk Nielsen:

“The decisive battle is no longer in the implementation of biofuel technology, this has largely been implemented. Market access for biofuels and thus reaching customers is the crucial battle that is currently going on. And the fossil companies are significantly larger and compared to them are the bioenergy companies little guys. "

Field of application with a future: biofuels in aviation

Denmark and innovative biofuels go very well together and I would even go so far that the Danes are at the forefront of developing new biofuels in Europe. Novozymes, Inbicon or Haldor Topsoe are just a few companies that have an international reputation in the world of next generation biofuels. The nice thing about biofuels is that their use is not limited to automobiles, but that the most promising markets may even be in other modes of transport.

“The last drop of crude oil will probably be burned in an aircraft turbine.” | Aviation industry mantra

So what does an industry do whose future seems closely connected to the development of the petroleum industry. She is looking for alternatives! And according to statements by many aviation representatives, the use of biofuels is the most promising. There are currently three major ways in which biofuels can be obtained for use in aircraft.

  1. Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (BtL fuels)
  2. Hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVO)
  3. Fermentation

All three potential manufacturing paths are ideal Jet fuel researched on a biomass basis.

However, the industry also has to consider that the fossil fuels currently in use have been continuously optimized for 50 years and it is therefore not easy to get rid of the proven and above all safe fuels. The topic too Sustainability of the biomass plays an important role in the airlines' decision to buy a new fuel. The moral debate of bioenergy must be clarified and acceptance by passengers must be guaranteed.

Photo: Airplane turbine biofuel

An important point for the acceptance of biofuels is the choice of the input materials. Many speakers (e.g. Greasoline from Oberhausen) therefore rely on technologies that enable a wide range of input materials. Starting with biofuels from new energy crops (Jatropha, Camelina, Algae fuels) to fuels from waste or bacteria. The less the feedstocks compete with the cultivation of food, the better.

The final statement by a representative of the aviation industry is optimistic. He said that fortunately we have no displacement market in aviation, but that anyone who can offer a working fuel of the right quality will be able to sell it.


Compilation of the highlights

Here is a summary of the conference results for each of the 5 main topics. The highlights are put together by the event team of ETA-Florence Renewable Energies.

What was missing?

The conference in Copenhagen was interesting and I met many well-known and new biomass players! Finally, there should also be a little criticism of the event. After all, critical feedback is the salt in every event report and I am also grateful for any feedback on BiomassMuse.

Photo: dog with skateboard

As harmonious as the atmosphere at EU BC&E was, I would ultimately have wished for a little more organizational space / time for a verbal exchange of blows. A bit more biteI would have found it good! After all, bioenergy is also open and sometimes heavily criticized and it would be exciting to see what other actors think about the current bioenergy debate. Where do you agree and where do you disagree? It is not the case that all biomass actors reject the ILUC argument or consider the tank-or-plate debate to be greatly exaggerated. Only if the industry uses these large meetings to compare the status quo with the criticism of bioenergy can joint solutions and countermeasures be organized.

That's supposed to be the end of my criticism. I'm already looking forward to the next EU BC&E (in Germany) and until then I wish all biomass players good ideas and good luck.


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