Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT
BioCouple - Coupling material and energetic utilization of biomass
On the one hand, scarce fossil resources can be replaced by biomass, while, on the other hand, the utilization of biomass quite often poses competition to food and feed production. Furthermore, the coupled energetic and material utilization of biomass competes with the exclusive energetic or material utilization of these organic substances. In the BioCouple project, Fraunhofer UMSICHT investigated the coupled material and energetic utilization of biomass as well as the possibility of integrating them into existing energy scenarios.
- BioCouple studied the possibilities and perspectives of different biorefinery concepts up to the year 2030.
- In the future, biomass is to be coupled, meaning to be used both energetically and materially.
- Exemplary path to a three-platform for bioethanol and chemicals made from straw
The German Federal Government presented an ambitious package with the "Integrated Energy and Climate Program" in 2007 with 14 projects for expanding the utilization of renewable energies. The share of renewable energies, in particular, plays a decisive role in this context. With the help of the "Biorefinery Research Portal," 92 European research projects involved with biorefinery were identified in 2010. The cluster showed that the focus of the activities is on the concrete assessment and optimization of individual biogenous raw materials, product spectrums, processing techniques or process chains. In the BioCouple project, scheduled for a duration of one and a half years, UMSICHT checked to what extent the concept of biorefinery is suitable to provide bioenergy, energy as well as substances/materials coupled and efficiently and how it can be optimally integrated into existing energy systems.
Examination of five generic biorefinery concepts
Due to the project's strategic focus with respect to the integration of biorefineries into the German energy system, the reviewed biorefinery concepts had to fulfill the following criteria: technologies available short to mid-term and relevant markets for the main and by-products had to exist as well as a particularly advantageous geographic location. Biorefineries whose raw materials could not be obtained within Germany for economic or technical reasons were not taken into consideration. The focus was on the following biorefinery concepts (types):
- Type I: Single platform biorefinery for bioethanol and animal feed made from grains containing starch
- Type II: Single platform biorefinery for biodiesel, animal feed and glycerin made from plant seeds containing oil
- Type III: Single platform biorefinery for synthetic biofuels, electricity and naphta made from residual wood/SRF*
- Type IV: Three platform biorefinery for bioethanol and chemical made from straw
- Type V: Two platform "green" biorefinery for electricity, insulating materials, fiber-reinforced plastics and fertilizers made from grass
In addition to technical/economic analyses, these generic biorefinery types were assessed with respect to different environmental aspects such as climatic effectiveness, preservation of fossil resources, and acidification potential. Furthermore, the project team determined corresponding indicators for reference systems that each provide the same product spectrum and were compared to the biorefinery types. Based on these results, an extrapolation of the absolute savings potential for Germany arrives at 14 million tons of CO2 equivalents in 2030.
Success factors for biorefineries
The analyses have shown that a concept for coupled production of material and energetic products, meaning "the" biorefinery, can not yet be spoken of. The generically reviewed biorefineries are at different stages of development and/or commercialization. While the processes of the types I, II and V are already fully deployable and available on the market, types III and IV are concepts that are not yet commercially developed. Accordingly, there is an individual need for optimization for each system. Strategically, the following factors can be derived which are of considerable importance to the success of biorefineries: the availability of the biomass, the selection of a suitable site, and the marketability of the produced products.
The mid- and long-term objective in the area of biorefinery is the further development of new bio-based products that utilize nature's synthesis performance.
* Short Rotation Forestry
German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)
Öko-Institut e. V. (Eco Institute)
Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie GmbH (Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy)