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Overview of bio energy technologies
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Basic definitions

Bioenergy is one of the most important renewable energy industries, based on the transformation of various types of biomass into a variety of useful energy products. Biomass includes natural organic materials of plant or animal origin, as well as specially grown energy crops, agricultural or forestry waste, food waste, wastewater and other industrial organic matter. Biomass is the oldest energy source known to mankind, and the heat and light generated from the combustion of biomass were fundamental in shaping human society. The vast majority of biomass energy on Earth is concentrated in green vegetation but is also found to a much lesser extent in terrestrial and marine living organisms.

Bioenergy is a renewable resource capable of replacing fossil fuels at a significant scale. Moreover, modern methods of converting biomass without direct combustion make it possible to switch to carbon-free energy; these methods also help to dispose of numerous organic wastes that release methane into the atmosphere during uncontrolled decomposition, which is the most aggressive source of the greenhouse effect.

Currently, bioenergy is a highly developed technology that has advanced in many countries around the world. However, the centuries-old tradition of using biomass for heat production, which continues today, does not correspond to modern ideas of energy efficiency and requires improvement. The practice of using food vegetation for energy purposes when the problem of hunger has not yet been universally solved has also been subjected to harsh criticism from various organizations. Other negative factors include the widespread use of agricultural land for biomass cultivation, resulting in competition for land; fossil-fueled farm vehicles, used, for example, for harvesting do not make this technology 100% green. In this regard, the most promising technologies in the development of bioenergy are second-generation biofuel production that use raw materials from non-food biomass/non-food crops, for example, from algae or wood; and deeper biomass processing technologies
– gasification and pyrolysis, as opposed to incineration [1,2].

According to [3], in 2018, the share of traditional biomass as a percentage of total energy consumption was around 7%, with the share of more modern or advanced types accounting for a little more than 5%.

A huge advantage of bioenergy is it allows for the possibility of obtaining a wide range of energy products in solid, gaseous and liquid form, which contributes to the satisfaction of various energy needs in electricity, heat supply or transport. In addition, by-products of bioenergy can be used as feedstock for the chemical, construction and agricultural industries. Another equally important advantage of bioenergy is that many of its products can be accumulated, stored long-term and easily transported, which at this stage of technological development is practically impossible in the case of   solar and wind energy.

Bioenergy has a relatively modest share in global power generation, its total generation capacity is slightly over 5%, which is insignificant when compared to other renewable energy sectors, including hydropower. At the same time, bioenergy is dominant in the production of heat energy and vehicle fuels. As a result, the share of bioenergy in the global consumption of energy from renewable sources is about 50% [4], taking into account the consumption of traditional biomass. Moreover, today more than 70% of processed biomass is used for thermal energy production, while the share of transport and electricity accounts for about 20 and 8%, respectively [3].

There are a large number of different technologies for the conversion of biomass into energy products, which take into account the characteristics of the feedstock and are mainly based on three types of technological impact
– chemical, biochemical or thermochemical.

Fig. 1 shows a simplified diagram of biomass processing options that are either most widely used industrially or are at the design stage. It should be noted that due to the wide variety of technological processes it is difficult to simultaneously arrange them on a small diagram in accordance with the main stages of production. As a result, certain processes can be considered as preliminary processing, and others, as main processing, etc. Nevertheless, in general the diagram reflects the main types of feedstock and final products, as well as the dominant technological processes for direct biomass conversion.

Fig. 1. The main methods of processing biomass for energy production

Technological applications of biomass processing begin with the collection of raw materials, for example, in the form of agricultural waste, or special energy crops, such as rapeseed, corn or sugarcane. The biomass feedstock is then pre-treated. This process includes the following stages: drying, size reduction, crushing and milling, densification, and sorting. For certain types of raw materials, mixing, washing, exposure to steam, torrefaction, etc. are used. It should be noted that these procedures are expensive and largely determine the effectiveness of the subsequent stages of biomass processing. Unlike other types of raw energy materials including liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons or coal – biomass is a technologically complex substance, often unsuitable for efficient subdivision or transportation. Therefore, increased attention is paid to methods of preliminary treatment of biomass, as well as the development of the methods themselves.

The choice of technology for biomass processing is primarily determined by the feedstock type, the desired end product and the availability of the necessary infrastructure. The commitment of manufacturers to modern environmental and social standards will also play a factor. For example, bioethanol can be obtained from wheat, corn, sugarcane or other food plants via traditional acid hydrolysis and fermentation technologies. Bioethanol can also be obtained from more complex biomass, based on lignocellulose, using more complex second generation technologies such as, enzymatic hydrolysis or high-temperature gasification followed by catalytic synthesis.

Today, the most prevalent end products of biomass conversion are biodiesel and bioethanol, which are used as liquid fuel; and other products, such as biogas, wood chips and pellets. Biodiesel and bioethanol are predominantly obtained using first-generation technologies. Biogas is produced from agricultural waste, and fuel chips and pellets from woodworking industry waste, i.e. not from food products. Therefore, in this sense, they can be classified as second generation technologies. However, these products are then still subjected to traditional and often ineffective incineration. As a result of additional purification of biogas to biomethane or processing of pellets by special torrefaction, high-quality fuel can be obtained. This fuel can be considered a product of modern bioenergy.

First generation diesel fuel is produced from vegetable oil, most often obtained from rapeseed, or oil and fat production waste, by reacting fats with methyl alcohol with the addition of a catalyst. This process is called transesterification. As a result, diesel and glycerin are formed. Due to the simplicity of the production cycle and the low temperature conditions, this method was popularity with the agricultural sector, and even gained state support in some countries. However, the intensive use of agricultural areas for rapeseed cultivation provoked protests, and the high sensitivity of economic indicators of production to external market conditions significantly restrain the development of this technology. According to one estimate [3], 47 billion liters of biodiesel were produced globally in 2020, primarily in Europe, the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia and Thailand.

Over the last decade new technologies for the production of second-generation biofuels in cooperation with oil refineries have become very widespread. For example, OMV has launched a “Bio CRACK plant” pilot project for the production of biodiesel in Schwechat which uses wood waste and heavy mineral oil produced at a local refinery as feedstock. The processing of raw materials include liquid-phase pyrolysis at a temperature of 4200C, which makes it possible to obtain diesel fuel with a 20% biogenic content [5].

Fig. 2 and 3. Biodiesel production plants. Left –  Bio-Venta plant in Ventspils, Latvia, first-generation biofuels; Right –  Neste Oil NExBTL plant, Rotterdam, second-generation biofuels.

Finnish Neste Oil has launched facilities to produce diesel fuel using the NExBTL technology at several of its own refineries. Any kind of vegetable oil or animal fat can be used as raw materials in this process. Hydrogen, which is widely used in oil refining, is used here for hydrocracking and hydrogenation of feedstock, instead of the traditional esterification method [6]. In 2019, the annual production of HVO (HVO-hydrotreated vegetable oil) reached 6.5 billion liters globally [3].

One of the most promising prospects for the production of biodiesel lies in the processing of certain types of microalgae, as lands unsuitable for agricultural production can be used for algae cultivation and their oil content per unit mass exceeds that of many food crops. This technology will be presented in more detail below. Bioethanol is another popular first-generation biofuel produced worldwide on an industrial scale.

The report by the American association RFA states that in 2019 the production of bioethanol was mainly concentrated in the USA (about 60 billion liters) and Brazil (about 33 billion liters). Other countries and regions accounted for about 16%, including other large producers - the European Union, China and India [7]. According to [8], by 2027 the production of bioethanol in the world will reach 130 billion tons. The volumes of production of second generation bioethanol from cellulosic biomass are still small. For comparison, in 2019 the production of cellulosic ethanol in Brazil was estimated at 45 million liters, and in Europe in 2017 at 85 million liters [9-10]. The annual list of ethanol producers in the United States in 2019 included only 11 enterprises out of almost 250 use cellulosic biomass as feedstock [7]. The main crops for the production of first generation ethanol are sugarcane/beets and maize. The first generation ethanol technology is based on a fermentation processes that breaks down glucose molecules under anaerobic conditions. More complex technologies for the production of ethanol from cellulosic biomass are discussed in a separate chapter.

One of the main areas of bioenergy is the production and use of wood chips and pellets as raw materials for the generation of heat and electricity. According to [11], about 500 million m3 of various sawn wood and 37 million tons of pellets were produced in the world in 2018. The main pellet producers are the USA, Canada, Vietnam, Latvia and Russia, and the largest consumers are Great Britain, Denmark, South Korea and Italy. Drying is almost always included in the list of technological operations for the pretreatment of woody biomass, since further processing of wet wood would be impossible. Wood chips are usually produced by mechanically shredding forestry waste in chippers and shredder machines. To produce pellets the feedstock is finely ground in a Hammer Mill and then passed through a wood pellet machine where the ground biomass is configured into dense granules. This raw material is consumed widely both by large enterprises and households.

Fig. 4 and 5. Wood chips CHP plants. Left – Tolkkinen CHP Plant, Finland, right – Brista CHP plant, Sweden.

Recently, woody biomass has been replacing part of the coal feedstock at thermal power plants, potentially reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Further, after reforestation it is hypothesized that emissions from biomass combustion will be offset, leading to zero emissions. However, this approach has been increasingly subjected to criticism [12]. There is a significant time gap between biomass combustion and reforestation and, in addition, owing to the significantly lower calorific value of biomass compared to fossil fuels with the same mass (as well as the low density of the finished raw material - wood chips or pellets), their transportation over long distances leaves a serious ecological footprint, which reduces the attractiveness of this particular area of bioenergy.

Therefore, in modern bioenergy more efficient thermochemical methods of using biomass are being intensively developed, such as gasification and pyrolysis, which, like biogas production, will be discussed in more detail below.

Biomass Resources

As noted above, the progressive development of bioenergy benefits by relying on the use of non-food biomass. These primarily include agricultural and forestry waste. Direct indicators of bioenergy resource supply can be specific quantitative data; for example, the volume of municipal organic waste or biomass burned, the volume of sewage, the volume of wood chips production, etc. Indirect indicators such as agricultural production, arable land area and forest area also provide useful auxiliary material for assessing biomass resources in a particular region. Figures 6 and 7 show maps of the resource potential of the biomass of agricultural activity and forestry for the 20 most advanced countries of the world for each of the detailed indicators shown on the maps. The information is based on data from [13, 14].

Fig. 6. Top 20 countries in the world in terms of agricultural activity

Clearly, with an increase in the size of farmland or livestock the level of organic waste also increases. This can provide extensive raw material for bioenergy, although, this of course largely depends on the level of applied technologies and the specific type of agricultural products. As follows from the data in Fig. 6, countries with large territories are not always among the leaders in terms of agricultural land or arable land per capita. For example, large countries such as Algeria, the Republic of Congo, Libya, Egypt, and Pakistan are not included in the top 20 list. Canada is in the second half of this list in terms of total agricultural land area, but among the leaders in terms of arable land per capita. The largest areas of agricultural land are in the United States, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Australia and Brazil. The leading countries in terms of arable land per capita are Canada, Kazakhstan and Australia. Many types of animal waste can be used as raw materials for the production of biodiesel or biogas, which is directly related to the livestock population. Countries such as the United States, Brazil, India and China have the largest livestock population. Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Australia also have significant livestock resources. In [14] data is provided on the direct combustion of biomass; according to the source, the USA, Brazil, India, Russia, Indonesia and China annually burn more than 10 million tons of biomass each.

A somewhat different picture emerges when analyzing the countries of the world in terms of forest area and the level of timber processing. The absolute leader based on the four indicators shown in Fig. 7 is Canada. Each of these indicators (Forest area, Forest area per capita, sawn wood production, Chips and Particles production), to a certain degree demonstrates the resource potential of biomass from waste from the forest and timber processing industries. Among the leaders, as in the previous example with agricultural indicators, are the countries with the largest forest area: the USA, Russia, China, Australia, and Brazil.

Fig. 7. Top-20 countries in the world in terms of forest area and level of timber processing

However, with regard to timber processing, the following European countries play a significant role: Germany, Sweden, Finland, as well as Chile and South Africa.

The most valuable bioresources for biomass production factoring in agricultural activity, forest area and level of timber processing are to be found in the USA, Russia, Canada, China, Brazil and Australia. Such densely populated and industrialized countries as Japan, Great Britain, South Korea, France, and Germany have entered the top 20 list solely due to the high level of timber processing. The northern countries of South America, belonging to the Amazon basin, have unique forest resources. The Baltic countries have high per capita arable land and a high level of timber processing. The countries of Southeast Asia, where biomass combustion prevails, have relatively limited resources in both categories. The same applies, largely, to India, which is among the leaders in livestock and has good indicators in terms of forest area and the level of timber processing.

A more extensive and detailed analysis of indicators of agricultural activity and the state of forests and timber processing for most countries of the world can be found in the following sources [13, 14].

Bio energy. References

[1] Bioenergy. Bioenergy accounts for roughly one-tenth of world total primary energy supply today / © OECD / IEA 2020, IEA Publishing, Licence: / International Energy Agency /
[2] Technology Roadmap Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy (PDF) / © OECD / IEA 2017, IEA Publishing, Licence: / International Energy Agency /
[3] Renewables 2020 Global Status Report (PDF) / REN21 /
[4] Modern bioenergy leads the growth of all renewables to 2023, according to latest IEA market forecast / 8 October 2018 / © OECD / IEA 2020, IEA Publishing, Licence: / International Energy Agency /
[5] BioCRACK Pilot Plant Producing 2nd-Generation Biofuels / Energy Innovation Austria /
[6] NEXBTL technology is based on the hydrogen treatment of vegetable oils and waste animal fat / NESTE /
[7] 2020 Ethanol Industry Outlook (PDF) / Renewable Fuels Association /
[8] OECD FAO Agricultural Outlook 2018-2027. Biofuels (PDF) / OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook /
[9] Brazil Biofuels Annual 2019 (PDF) / Global Agriculture Information Network /
[10] Brazil /EU Biofuels Annual 2016 (PDF)  / Global Agriculture Information Network/
[11] Global production and trade in forest products in 2018 / Forest product statistics / The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) /
[12] UK 'green' biomass sourced from forests with 150 year old trees / Calls for subsidies for industry to be halted / By Emma Gatten, ENVIRONMENT EDITOR ; Alec Luhn MOSCOW and Olivia Rudgard / NORTH CAROLINA 15 June 2020 / The Telegraph /
[13 ] Arable land (hectares per person) / World Bank, International Comparison Program database. License: CC BY-4.0 / Data / The World Bank /
[14 ] Data / FAOSTAT / The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) /


List of major technological facilities

Examples of the Biogas Facilities and Patenting Activity in the World, 2018:

1. Dr. Li Dong. The Progress of Biomass Energy and Biogas in China. May 2012. Presentation.  
2. AgPower Group /
3. Agrocaribe /
4. American Biogas Council /
5. Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association /
6. Andigestion Ltd. /
7. ANJ-Group /
8. Belarus Daily Newspaper (БДГДеловаяГазета) /
9. Bigadan A/S /
10. Biodome Asia /
11. Biogaspartner by German Energy Agency (dena) /
12. Biogasrat Dezentrale Energien /
13. Biomass Magazine /
14. Bio-En Power Inc. /
15. BioTown Ag /
16. Bio2Watt (Pty) Ltd. /
17. Boral Limited /
18. Bosch Projects /
19. Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (ANEEL) /
20. Business Magazine (БизнесЖурнал) /
21. Business Wire /
22. Camco Clean Energy /
23. Canadian Biogas Association /
24. China News /
25. Clean Energy Resource Teams /
26. Clarke Energy /
27. Corporation BioGazEnergoStroy (КорпорацияБиоГазЭнергоСтрой) /
28. CAMDA /
29. CIFES – Renewable Energy Center by Ministry of Energy of Chile /
30. Diario de Navarra /
31. Energy Alternatives India (EAI) /
32. Engineering News /
33. EnviTec Biogas AG /
34. Epoch Times em Portugues /
35. Equipment from Germany. News. (ОборудованиеизГермании. Новости.) /
36. Fachverband Biogas e.V. /
37. Fouman Co. /
38. German-Indonesian Chamber of Industry & Commerce (Deutsch-Indonesische Industrie- & Handelskammer) /
39. Great Southern Press – EcoGeneration /
40. Green Prophet /
41. Himark BioGas /
42. HoyxHoy Chile /
43. Infosudoeste /
44. Lethbridge Biogas LP /
45. Lipetsk Newspaper (ИДЛипецкаяГазета) /
46. London Stock Exchange /
47. Mande Blog /
48. Melbourne Water /
49. Ministry of Energy of Chile /
50. Ministry of Energy: Renewable Energy Organization of Iran (SUNA) /
51. MIT Technology Review /
52. Mongabay Environmental News /
53. NAWARO BioEnergie AG /
54. Nordmethan /
55. NovaEnergo s.r.o. /
56. Partners for Innovation /
57. POIC Sabah Sdn. Bhd. /
58. Red O’Higgins News /
59. Renewable Energy Magazine /
60. Russian Academy of Natural Histrory (RANH) /
61. REA Biogas /
62. San Jose Mercury News /
63. Schmack Biogas GmbH /
64. Southern Minnesota /
65. Tertium Participacoes /
66. Tianguan Group Co. /
67. The Climate Change and Emissions Management (CCEMC) /
68. The Green Optimistic /
69. The Hindu /
70. The Jerusalem Post /
71. The Poultry Site /
72. Tropical Power /
73. Vesti Finance (Вести Экономика) /
74. Waste Management World /
76. Wikipedia /
77. WirtschaftsBlatt Medien GmbH /
78. World Bioenergy Association /
79. Workshop. Modern Building (Мастерская. Современное строительство) /
80. Zero Waste Energy, LLC /

Examples of Advanced Biochemical (2G Ethanol) Facilities in the World, 2018:

1. Abengoa Bioenergy S.A. /
2. Advanced Ethanol Council /
3. Biochemtex SpA /
4. Biofuels Digest /
5. Bloomberg Business /
6. BlueFire Renewables, Inc. /
7. Chemicals Technology Market & Customer Insight /
8. DuPont /
9. DSM Company /
10. Ethanol Producer Magazine /
11. European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBTP) /
12. GranBio /
13. INEOS Bio /
14. Kansas Corporation Commission /
15. Status of 2nd Generation Biofuels Demonstration Facilities by IEA Bioenergy Task 39 /
16. U.S. Department of Energy /

Examples of Fast Pyrolysis and Advanced Torrefaction Facilities, and Patenting Activity in the World, 2018:

1.  J.S.Tumuluru and etc. "Review on Biomass Torrefaction Process and Product Properties and Design of Moving Bed Torrefaction System Model Development". (2011 ASABE Annual International Meeting).
2. IEA Bioenergy Task 32: Biomass Combustion and  Cofiring /
3. Energy – DNV GL /
4. Biosaimaa /
5. IEA Bioenergy Task 40: Sustainable International Bioenergy Trade /
6. Topell Energy /
7. BioEndev /
8. Canadian Biomass /
9. AIREX Energy /
10. Zilkha Biomass Energy (ZBS) /
11. Biomass Magazine /
12. Green Car Congress /
13. Integro Earth Fuels, Inc. /

Examples of Advanced Biomass Gasification Facilities and Patenting Activity in the World:

1. K.Ståhl, L.Waldheim, M.Morris, U.Johnsson, L.Gårdmark. Biomass IGCC at Varnamo, Sweden - Past and Future.2004.
2. R.Bailey. Jr., M.Colombo, W.N.Scott. A 4 MWe biogas engine plant fueled by the gasification of olive oil production wastes (sansa).
3. IEA Bioenergy Task 33: Thermal Gasification of Biomass /
4. IEA Bioenergy Task 40: Sustainable International Bioenergy Trade. /
5. ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers Magazine) /
6. Babcock & Wilcox Volund /
7. Biofuels Digest /
8. Biofuels Journal /
9. Bioliq – Biomass to Liquid Karlsruhe /
10. Chemicals Technology & Customer Insight /
11. Chemrec AB /
12. Concord Blue Energy /
13. Danpower Group /
14. ECN /
15. Energ-G Group /
16. Energy Cities /
17. Energy Justice Network /
18. Essent N.V. /
19. European Biofuels Technology Platform /
20. Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energyof Germany /
21. Foster Wheeler AG /
22. Gasification & Syngas Technologies Council /
23. Genossenkorporation Stans /
24. Göteborg Energi /
25. INEOS Capital Limited /
26. Jagran Prakashan Ltd. /
27. Jornadas Hispano Alemanas /
28. Lahti Energia /
29. LanzaTech /
30. Linde Group /
31. Luleå University of Technology /
32. Modern Power Systems /
33. Nexterra Systems Corp. /
34. Power Technology Market & Customer Insight /
35. PR Newswire Association LLC /
36. Renewable Energy World /
37. Repotec /
38. Resource Magazine /
39. RISI Technology  Channels /
40. RWE AG /
41. SÖDRA /
42. SPIN Project /
43. TRI (ThermoChem Recovery International Inc.) /
44. U.S. Department of Energy. NETL /
45. VVBGC (Växjö Värnamo Biomass Gasification Centre) /
46. VTT Group /
47. Wikipedia /

Examples of Advanced Thermochemical BtL Facilities and Patenting Activity in the World, 2018:

1. AGA /
2. Biofuels Journal /
3. Chemicals Technology Market & Customer Insight /
4. Chemrec AB /
5. Clean Technica /
6.Enerkem /
7. European Biofuels Technology Platform /
8. Europäische Zentrum für erneuerbare Energie (EEE) /
9. Fortum Corporation /
10. Goteborg Energi /
11. Green Car Congress /
12. Inhabitat /
13. IFP Energies nouvelles /
14. Solena Fuels /
15. Status of 2nd Generation Biofuels Demonstration Facilities by IEA Bioenergy Task 39 /
16. Tembec /
17. VarmlandsMethanol AB /
18. Velocys plc. /
19. Wikipedia /

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