The EffiSludge concept aims to expand the potential for biogas production within the pulp and paper industry. Coordinated by Scandinavian Biogas, the project will be developed in cooperation with Norske Skog and Biokraft AS, at the Norske Skog’s mill located at Skogn, Norway. Part of the European LIFE programme for Climate Change Mitigation, the project will run until 2019.
A new study published by Biogas Research Center illustrates the role of biogas solutions in the circular and bio-based economy. The report also includes an analysis of these benefits in relation to the UN’s 17 sustainability goals.
The study show substantial scientific support for the benefits with biogas solutions but also several gaps are revealed. Typically, nutrient circulation, circular economy, resource efficiency, organic farming are less well studied benefits. The reason for them being less studied may be their complexity and the “lack of ownership” among actors.
The analysis show that biogas solutions can contribute to all of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This indicates that biogas solutions need to be studied and understood in a broad, cross-sectoral system perspective.
Aqua Enviro training takes place from 7- 8th December 2016, Aqua Enviro Event Suite, Wakefield, United Kingdom.
This new 2 day course is an essential investment for anyone interested in making the most of their plant – whether considering a new facility or plant upgrades to increase the value of the digestate. It draws upon case studies, common operational problems and practical solutions to improve the overall economics of digestion and digestate, both in current and emerging markets.
“We must tell the world that we could achieve 50% of the EU’s environmental objective for the transport sector using biofuel”. Willy Verstraete, professor emeritus from Ghent, Belgium, issued a call to arms to the participants of the ATBEST biogas conference in Linköping.
Willy Vertsraete is a grand old man in biogas research: he was appointed professor at Ghent University in 1979 and has been professor emeritus since 2011. He is a member of the international reference group for the Biogas Research Center, a centre of excellence in biogas research at LiU. He was also the obvious choice for principal speaker when the EU ATBEST programme, financed within the seventh framework programme, held its first international conference, ”Biogas for the future”, in Linköping.
“We could increase the production of biofuel in Sweden by a factor of four within ten years,” he claimed.
He is full of energy and a source of captivating similes that bring laughter to the participants while at the same time stimulating thought. One such simile is that the microorganisms responsible for digestion in a biogas reactor are social beings with their own internet – which we, unfortunately, do not have access to.
“They communicate using nanowires, and they have a great deal to talk about. It’s our task to get them to collaborate even more closely.” Willy Verstraete points out that biogas researchers around the world must start to seek not only new microorganisms that produce methane, but also those that communicate and bind together what otherwise are completely disorganised systems.
This is because the yield of biogas is highest in organised systems.
“We have only recently discovered these microorganisms, and we have the idea that they are ugly and nasty. They are many, they collaborate and they undergo continuous change. It’s possible that we have not yet identified as many as 80% of microorganisms. The good news is that they follow the laws of nature, and if we could just find out how they interact, we could start to help and modify them,” he says.
Possible fields of use include probiotics, to improve or reinforce biological processes (such as those in a biogas reactor), and food.
The fact that microorganisms undergo continuous change is also a challenge when biogas production is to be industrialised.
“It’s not possible to patent microorganisms, and this upsets traditional thinking,” he says.
He also puts forward the hypothesis that it’s probably not worth trying to give the microorganisms optimal conditions inside a biogas reactor. This is because what is optimal changes from one hour to the next. It’s better to give the system a stir, change the conditions at regular intervals, in order to keep the microorganisms alert.
“Twenty percent of the microorganisms should actually be doing the job, and the other 80% fired up to challenge them. And this requires immigrants, new genes that bring disorder to the system and increase its efficiency. The more diversified the system is, the better,” he says.
He concludes by reminding us that water is a finite resource and that using drinking water to flush the toilet is not sensible.
“People don’t want to talk about what’s nasty and disgusting, but the waste products from the human body are also resources that can be used.”
Professor Björn-Ola Linnér, from the Department of Thematic Studies, Environmental Change, at LiU spoke warmly of biogas, since it can help us to manage several of the challenges facing the world.
His message was clear: it’s not possible to focus exclusively on the climate. All questions that concern the climate and the environment are coupled to other challenges such as being able to manage ocean pollution, poverty, hunger, ill-health, ensuring the global supply of water and sanitation, sustainable energy supply for all, security, world peace, and many other issues.
“It’s dangerous to believe that all the technology has already been developed, and it’s simply a case of using it. This might work, but only if we dramatically reduce our consumption. Actually, more research and new technology are both required,” he said.
He further pointed out that during the climate conference in Paris in 2015, only 31 countries even mentioned biogas in their undertakings to reduce climate change. Most of these were developing countries.
“There was a lot of talk about ‘transformation’ during the climate talks, i.e. change and a new way of looking at things, but the final results in the agreements that were reached talk instead about ‘transition’, in which one source of energy is exchanged for another. Transformation was considered to be too radical.”
Björn-Ola Linnér suggested that biogas may play an important role in transformation, since this does not involve only advantages for the climate. “Biogas will help us to achieve several sustainability objectives,” he said.
Susanna Pflüger, general secretary of the European Biogas Association informed participants about what is happening in the field in Brussels.
“A transition to a circular economy is being given a high priority, but objectives have not been set for individual countries, only at the overall level.”
The EU is to be a world-leader in reuse and recycling. It is to achieve the leading position and maintain it.
However, one of the obstacles she saw was that decision-making is now being taken away from Brussels and passed to the member states.
“Few countries take action unless the EU gives them a push,” she said.
She and the organisation she leads have, however, important targets to aim at:
- An internal market for biogas and products of digestion
- The acknowledgement of biogas as a domestic, renewable fuel
- Uniform regulations that apply to other biofuels, environmental labelling, etc.
- Recognition of the environmental benefits of biogas. These include reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, the possibility of reusing phosphorus and other nutrients, a reduction in the use of artificial fertilisers, and many more.
The ATBEST conference included also scientific presentations on such topics as process optimisation, the optimal use of biogas, and – not least – industrial opportunities. Volvo, Scania and Volkswagen were present at the conference and filled a showroom with the latest technology within the transport sector.
“It also became clear during the conference that we must in the future regard digestion facilities in a broader perspective, optimising the systems for several environmental factors. Nitrogen, for example, can be reused in the production of proteins,” says Annika Björn, senior lecturer at the Department of Thematic Studies, Environmental Change, and a leading light in the organising committee of the ATBEST conference.
The conference was arranged by the Questor Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland; LiU; the Biogas Research Center; and Scandinavian Biogas Fuels AB.
Advanced technologies and novel solutions for a competitive and sustainable European biogas sector
The EU-funded ATBEST project has recently hosted its final international conference from 7 to 8 September 2016 in Linköping, Sweden, where it outlined its toolbox of innovative solutions to support and promote the future growth and sustainability of the European biogas sector.
South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, wants to reduce its impact on the climate, solve its problems with waste and become an environmentally sensitive city. Representatives of the city have come to Linköping and met Professor Mats Eklund in their search for ideas and knowledge.
The road from Johannesburg, with its more than five million inhabitants, to the considerably smaller Linköping far in the north, is a long one. But Linköping is a centre of activity in the biogas field, and Makhosazana Baker and Thabo Mahlatsi from the municipality of Johannesburg together with Professors Edison Muzenda and Samson Masebinu from the University of Johannesburg found the journey to be well worthwhile. Despite significant differences between the two cities, the visitors were greatly inspired, and have great hopes for continued research collaboration.
“We have applied for funding to both South African and Swedish bodies,” confirm Mats Eklund and Edison Muzenda. Mats is professor in environmental technology and director of the Biogas Research Center at LiU, while Edison is professor at the Process, Energy and Environmental Technology Station at the University of Johannesburg.
The South African delegation has been here for two weeks now, and participated in the international biogas conference that was held under the auspices of the EU programme ATBEST. The members have also visited Tekniska verken, met local politicians in Linköping, held discussions with LiU researchers active at BRC, visited Scandinavian Biogas and other companies, and studied biogas-powered buses at Scania in Södertälje.
Johannesburg is facing many challenges, including social unrest, political instability and economic problems. The latter hits environmental work hard, in particular the need to solve waste management. Within a few years the four landfill sites around Johannesburg will be full, and permission to open new ones will not be granted.
The municipal company Pikitup deals with 1.5 million tonnes of refuse every year. Nearly all waste from households and industry in the city currently ends up in the landfills, and only 7% is recycled.
“Our goal for 2040 is to reverse these figures, with only 7% being dumped in landfill sites. The rest is to be reused or recycled,” says Samson Masebinu.
Together with his colleagues at the University of Johannesburg he has investigated and categorised the waste at one of the city’s landfill sites, and shown that as much as 34% of the waste is organic matter. The city itself operates a large fruit and vegetable market, which alone generates more than 327 tonnes of organic waste a day. This is an excellent substrate for biogas production, and a useful resource in a city that lacks a viable fossil-free alternative fuel for its buses.
While it is true that several biogas generators have been installed in the region, they are used to generate electricity, which is also important for a city such as Johannesburg.
“What we have seen during our visit is that the EU is a powerful driving force, and that there is a political will here, with well-developed collaboration between the municipalities, companies and municipality-owned companies. The general public is committed and plays its part. You have set up schedules and know what the next step is to be. You have the economic strength and appropriate business models, and – not least – you have sound research that supports the measures taken. All of these factors mean that you can think in terms of an integrated system,” concludes Samson Masebinu.
“Working in an integrated system is, of course, impossible unless the different actors collaborate. And such a system takes time to build up. What’s important for you is to determine which actors are important and persuade them to work in a wider perspective. It’s not for me to tell you what to do: indeed, I’m not able to do so. But I can advise you not only to work with long-term objectives and visions but also to start to build at a small scale in order to gain experience. And don’t make promises that you can’t keep,” Mats Eklund told the visitors.
Makhosazana Baker and Thabo Mahlatsi (left) nod, and point out that the city also needs closer collaboration with the University of Johannesburg. They are grateful to the university for arranging the trip.
So how did you end up in Linköping?
“Well. it’s like this,” explains Professor Edison Muzenda. One of his colleagues spent a sabbatical in Germany, where interest in biogas is considerable. The researchers in Germany, together with internet-based searches, led them to discover the Biogas Research Center and Mats Eklund.
“It’s not usual to make formal appointments for meetings in Africa: we tend to just drop in,” explains Edison Muzenda.
So the South African professor appeared without warning in Mats Eklund’s office, looking for contact.
“That’s right – he just dropped in, so I had to listen to what he had to say,” laughs Mats Eklund. “I asked whether he had travelled all the way from South Africa just on the offchance, but, no, he had only travelled from Germany!”
There was a meeting of minds, and if the two partners get what they want, the next meeting will be at the University of Johannesburg at the beginning of next year.
Makhosazane Baker and Thabo Mahlatsi from the municipality of Johannesburg, with Professor Edison Muzenda, University of Johannesburg.
Monica Westman Svenselius 2016-09-28
The Biogas Research Center (BRC) project IP5 “Biogas from Aquatic Biomass” hosted a workshop entiteled “Biorefineries and Biogas solutions in a Blue Bio-economy” for national decision-makers, researchers, entrepreneurs and potential funders. The workshop took place from 19-20th September in the municipality of Smögen, Sweden.
In a splendid environment around 40 participants listened to presentations from initiated entrepreneurs and researchers working with harvesting or cultivating biomass in nutrient-rich waters and producing a variety of products, including biogas. Presentations were combined with intensive group discussions on measures needed to facilitate and promote development in this field. A number of creative ideas on how to make good initiatives profitable were put forward and discussed by authorities and potential investors.
We agreed that it is essential to realize the potential to use more aquatic biomass for e.g. food, feed and renewable energy supply while also realizing cost-efficient environmental measures through innovative business opportunities. On Monday evening, we were invited to see a pilot unit for land based salmon and algae production, generously demonstrated by Rena Hav AB and Swedish Algae Factory AB. All creative views and ideas were further refined during an evening get-together in a Smögen fish shed.
Here is a summary from the workshop: Summary-and-way-forward.pdf
Find out more about the workshop in the documentation below:
BRC IP5 Summary of workshop
- Biorefineries and Biogas solutions in a Blue Bio-economy. Karin Tonderski, BRC Linköping University
- Sotenäs symbioscenter. Andreas Sülau.
- Biogas production from salmon residues and its integration in pulp and paper industry effluent treatment. Jörgen Ejlertsson, Scandinavian Biogas Fuel AB
- Win-win solutions for the future! Tomas Kjellquist, Agrosea AB.
- Environmental fishery – huge environmental gains from small fishes. Gun Lindberg, Västervik Municipality
- Investing in the Baltic Sea is Good Business. Barbara Jackson and Inyang Eyona Bergenstråle, co-directors Race for the Baltic, Zennström Philanthropies
- Innovation stimulation in the Kamprad Family Foundation. Lena Fritzén
- A Swedish marine strategy – for people, jobs and the environment. Linda Lingsten, the Agency for Marine and Water Management
- Algae for energy purposes – policy aspects. Alesia Israilava, Swedish Energy Agency
- Landbase salmon farming and biogas in a bioeconomy. Bengt Gunnarsson, Rena Hav
- Cultivating ascidians for fish feed, biogas and positive environmental effects. Fredrik Norén, Marin Biogas AB
- Project SeaFarm and the ALLIANCE networking project. Fredrik Gröndahl, KTH
- Cultivation and processing of macroalgae biomass in Norway and the COMPLETE project. Francesco Ometto, Scandinavian Biogas Fuel AB and BRC
- A Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. Hans-Olof Stålgren, Swedish Board of Agriculture
Biogas Research Centre organizes a workshop for national decision-makers, researchers, entrepreneurs and potential funders on the theme Biorefineries and Biogas solutions in a Blue-Bio economy. The aim is to discuss the state-of-the-art and measures needed to realize the potential for achieving multiple benefits–e.g. improved status of aquatic ecosystems, new business opportunities, renewable energy supply – by harvesting or cultivating biomass in nutrient-rich waters.
Time and place: September 19th at 12.00 – September 20th at 14.30 in Sotenäs
For registration, follow this link
Roozbeh Feiz disputation seminar
Title: Systems Analysis for Eco-Industrial Development: Applied on Cement and Biogas Production Systems
Time and place: 10:15 I ACAS (A-huset) campus Valla
Alyssa Blumenthal came to LiU in September 2015 on a Fulbright scholarship. Now she is full of enthusiasm about the Biogas Research Center (BRC), Linköping University, Sweden and energy-related issues. However she is leaving academia for a job at an energy company in her hometown, New York City.
Alyssa Blumenthal enjoys cooking and cookbooks. It wasn’t a big step for her to compare the ingredients required for producing biogas at a pulp and paper mill, with the ingredients needed to get micro-algae to grow and thrive.
She has put together what she humorously calls a cookbook for biogas. It includes recipes for combining bi-products from pulp and paper mills with the production of micro-algae. To grow, micro-algae need water, light, carbon dioxide and some of the nutrients found in these bi-products. The algae can be used to make oils, fats and various chemicals. The bi-products can be decomposed into biogas together with the bi-products from the pulp and paper mill’s wastewater. In this process, the algae provide the reactor with valuable nutrients.
“There’s a lot to gain from combining different techniques. At pulp and paper mills there are enormous flows of resources that can be very useful at biogas and biorefineries,” she says.
Alyssa Blumenthal first came in contact with biogas while on an internship at a lab in Illinois. Her interest sparked, she went online and found the Biogas Research Center, got in touch with the LiU professor Mats Eklund, and successfully applied for a Fulbright scholarship. Since September 2015 she has been a researcher at the centre, and at the Division for Environmental Technology and Management.
“In the States there’s not a lot of talk about biogas, and especially not as a fuel for vehicles,” she says.
Once she became aware of biogas, her interest in it has grown constantly – not just for biogas itself, but also for how it can be a valuable resource in today’s society.
“Initially the biogas reactors were only used to get rid of organic waste at the treatment plants. And in recent years biogas has only been seen as a vehicle fuel, but there are numerous other applications and possibilities for biogas,” she says.
Together with Linda Hagman, doctoral student at the Division for Environmental Technology and Management, Alyssa has devoted the last months of her stay in Sweden to biorefineries, and the possibilities for combining resource flows at pulp and paper mills with resources from the food industry, the oceans and the agricultural sector.
“What I have really learnt here is to think and see in systems, and to dare to test my own ideas. In the US, research is a bit more hierarchical – as a young researcher you take part in a professor’s project, but here I’ve been able to run my own project and test my own ideas,” she says.
At first this was a bit daunting. After all, she was a 22-year-old with a bachelor’s degree, coming to a new country, a new university and new colleagues.
“Even if I’m young, my thoughts and ideas are valued here, and the same goes for the doctoral students, and I really appreciate that. It has been both enjoyable and rewarding. After a while I realised I knew more than I thought. It’s great to be able to do more than simply learn stuff – I can make a contribution as well.”
“And I’ve had fantastic support from Mats Eklund, my supervisor.
And Mats Eklund can’t emphasise enough, what a talented young researcher Alyssa Blumenthal is. And that it’s a real shame that she will soon be packing her bags for the trip back across the Atlantic.
“Doing research was completely new for me, and really exciting. Who knows what might happen down the road. But I’ll keep working with issues related to energy supply and environment.”
The Fulbright Program
The Fulbright Commission has an office in Stockholm, where you can apply for scholarships for master’s studies, doctoral studies and research exchanges in the United States.
Monica Westman Svenselius 2016-06-01