Examples of fuels produced from biomass are biomethane, renewable natural gas (RNG), biogenic hydrogen, biokerosene, biomethanol, bioethanol and higher alcohols. However, in future, care must be taken to avoid the well-documented conflict between crops used for food and those used for fuel production. The bioeconomy strategy therefore calls for only using the biomass that cannot be used for producing food. Microalgae, biowaste and residual materials have huge potential in this area.
On 19th December in Stuttgart, the state secretary of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Richard Drautz, presented the Bioenergy Competition results for the second half of 2008. The best projects are being given funding of almost one million euros.
The report Future Bioenergy and Sustainable Land Use is the first integrated study of bioenergy to explore the issue in the context of global environmental and development policy. It shows that the global sustainable potential for producing energy from biomass is significant.
A project called ”Energiebündel & Flowerpower" run by the “Netzwerk Streuobst Mössingen" has established a complex local recycling network for biomass from meadow orchards. The network involves the city of Mössingen, the neighbouring municipality of Nehren, the KFB institution for the physically disabled and their self-help work group called “Streuobst und Naturschutz”, a biogas operator from Nehren, a start-up company called Vital Carbon, a wood pellet company and first and foremost the owners of small orchards around the city of Mössingen.
“We can do in ten minutes what nature took millions of years to complete,” said Henning Bockhorn from the Engler-Bunte Institute at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) referring to a method which his team developed for the energy supplier Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW). The patented method enables biomass to be converted into a material similar to brown coal. The method is known as “biomass steam processing” (BSP) and is currently being optimised in a pilot plant operated by Energie Baden-Württemberg.
The completion of the bioliq® pilot plant on the northern campus of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is now a certainty. Following the commitment by the German and Baden-Württemberg governments to provide 11 million euros in financing, the KIT has now also signed contracts with companies that will work with KIT in the implementation of the two final processing stages. These two stages involve the production of second-generation environmentally friendly biofuel from biogenic synthesis gas.
We are all very aware of what happens when we dispose of waste whether it is industry waste private household waste or CO2. We also know that cost-effectiveness is still given priority over sustainability. As more and more waste is dumped it is increasingly entering the groundwater soil and atmosphere. The ideal solution would enable us to kill two birds with one stone if we could somehow combine the problems related to increasing environmental contamination and anthropogenic global warming with the problem of finite resources. What would be more natural than that? Waste is a sustainable source of energy. How can this source be tapped?
The bioliq® process developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) enables the production of fully synthetic diesel and petrol from straw and other residues that accumulate in agriculture and forestry. Following the first and second expansion stages, the KIT is now able to move on to the next two stages, involving gas purification and fuel synthesis at the pilot plant. The German and Baden-Württemberg governments are providing a total of 11 million euros in funding for the expansion of the pilot plant on the KIT campus.
The Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg participates in the new EU-funded FP7 collaborative project Direct biological conversion of solar energy to volatile hydrocarbon fuels by engineered cyanobacteria Acronym DirectFuel starting OCT 1 2010 with Prof. Wolfgang Hess Department of Genetics Faculty of Biology as the principal investigator.
Several years ago, development workers attempted to supply rural households in the Kagera region of Tanzania with biogas. However, the project failed because the technology was not fully developed and was not properly adapted to the regional conditions. Now, the association “Engineers Without Borders” is setting out to correct past mistakes, together with students from the University of Hohenheim.
The Distillery for Research and Training at the University of Hohenheim has been reopened after the completion of renovation work costing around 1.2 million euros. The distillery is now equipped with a computer-operated process-control system and modern sensors, all state-of-the-art technology for the fermentation processes at Hohenheim. The new distillery pilot plant has a fermentation room for work with genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified yeasts can be tested for their suitability for the production of bioethanol from new raw materials.
A biomass action day was recently organised at the Unterer Lindenhof experimental station in order to show schoolchildren a number of features of different agricultural products that fuel that is made from rape seed is capable of taking them from Egypt to South Africa that the use of wood for heating houses is very ecological and that various plant oils can taste very differently. This action day was made possible thanks to the Hohenheim Institute of Crop Production and Grassland Research winner of the Alltagstauglich suitable for everyday use contest organised in the 2009 Science Year.
The research project “Biomass from short rotation forestry” was kicked off during a planting campaign on 29th April in Buchen-Oberneudorf (administrative district of Neckar-Odenwald). The objective of the project is to establish an area of 150 ha for fast-growing trees and Miscanthus in Baden-Württemberg between 2008 and 2012 and thus advance the expansion of renewable energies.
In 2011 Baden-Württemberg was home to around 37 bioenergy villages and several others are under construction or in the planning phase. Bioenergy villages produce all of their electricity and energy for heating locally from renewable resources such as maize and wood electricity is mainly generated from biogas.
The German EnBW AG and the University of Hohenheim will investigate the viability of sustainable of jatropha plants with the overall goal of reducing greenhouse gases. A contract for this particular land use has recently been signed.
The lack of flexibility with regard to peak demand for electricity – both for consumers and producers – is a well-known problem as far as the production of electricity from renewable resources is concerned. Biogas plants present a particular challenge due to the complex and relatively slow microbial processes involved. A research project called FLEXIZUCKER at the Universities of Ulm and Göttingen aims to make biogas production more flexible and hence the supply of renewable electricity more grid- and market compatible.
Two Fraunhofer scientists have been awarded this year’s Ferchau Innovation Award. The first place, along with prize money of 10,000 euros, was awarded to Prof. Walter Trösch from the Fraunhofer Institute of Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart. Trösch uses photobioreactors to bind CO2 produced from flue gas plants. The second place, and 7,500 euros, went to Michael Emonts from the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen for the development of a new laser-assisted cutting procedure. The competition, which comes with a total of 30,000 euros in prize money, is entitled “Technology for the Environment”. The prizes were awarded on 20th April at the Hanover Fair.
Mannheim-based CropEnergies AG operates Europes largest bioethanol facility located in the town of Zeitz. The company is also erecting a large-scale facility for liquefying purifying and recycling biogenic carbon dioxide at the same site. The new plant will have an annual capacity of 100000 t of food-grade liquefied CO2.
Hydrogen (H2) produced from water has great potential to be an environmentally friendly energy carrier of the future. However, the future application of hydrogen and other CO2-neutral sustainable fuels also requires the development of production methods that can contribute to the energy supply of tomorrow. Some unicellular green algae and cyanobacteria use light to break up water into hydrogen and oxygen. In cooperation with eight partners, KIT scientists are currently working on the development of highly efficient methods for hydrogen production from microalgae. The BMBF is funding the “HydroMicPro” project with a total of 2.1 million euros.
Biogas plants have become well-known sights throughout Germany and are usually built according to standardised concepts. The biogas plant that is currently being constructed in the village of Zermatt below the Matterhorn presented the GICON Großmann Ingenieur Consult GmbH planners with a particular challenge. The geographical and climatic conditions of the area and seasonal waste variations due to seasonally fluctuating tourist numbers required them to come up with an individualised solution.
On 17th October 2012, the Commission published a proposal to limit global land conversion for biofuel production, and raise the climate benefits of biofuels used in the EU. Through changes of the current legislation the Commission wants to promote biofuels that help achieving substantial emission cuts, do not directly compete with food and are more sustainable at the same time.
There is a binding EU-wide target to source 20 per cent of each country’s energy needs, as stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol, from renewable sources by 2020. The production of biogas is one promising key technology that could lead to this target being reached. But which technologies, measures and conditions are needed to advance biogas technology in Europe? The EU research project SEBE (Sustainable and Innovative European Biogas Environment) is investigating the conditions that are required to push biogas technology forward. One of the 14 SEBE partners is the Institute for Sanitary Engineering, Water Quality and Solid Waste Management (ISWA) at the University of Stuttgart.
Timo Enderle (cofactor – a consulting company focusing on algal biotechnology) believes that the efficient cultivation of microalgae can be further optimised and that the use of microalgae for energy will become possible in the not-too-distant future. Enderle spoke with Martin Follmann (BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg) about the prospects for algal biotechnology.