27th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition

On the early sunny Sunday morning, I left London to Lisbon to attend the 27th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition (EUBCE). The conference lasted a whole week, from 27 to 31 May 2019. EUBCE 2019 attracted 1,600 delegates from almost 80 countries. There were over 1,100 contributions, including 281 keynote plenary and oral presentations. EUBCE 2019 covered a wide range of topics with 5 parallel sessions, 2 or 3 poster sessions running at the same time, plus 43 exhibition stands. The conference dedicated a specific time for poster presenters to give a 3 minutes talk and 2 minutes question time, which was very useful for the audience to understand the work. Alongside the conference, there were 3 to 4 workshops or seminars each day. I attended three of them, which I will report later. With so much going on, it was very difficult to decide which sessions to attend.

The first day was easy for me to choose my sessions. In the morning, after the conference was opened by Maria Da Grace Carvalho, Directorate-general Research and Innovation European Commission; João Matos Fernandes, Minister of Environment and Energy Transition of Portugal; and two other industry executives, we had the scientific opening/plenary session and panel discussion. There was a plenary session every morning of the conference.

The main messages I got from these plenary sessions were that biomass is crucial to deliver the Paris targets and biofuel dominates the utilisation of biomass. Although bio-oil and biogas production are the hot topics, combusting biomass to generate heat and power still plays an important role.

Cofiring biomass in coal-fired power plants was mentioned but the advantages of cofiring in large, high efficiency power plants were not addressed. On Monday afternoon, I rushed between the EU-Japan Biomass Seminar and cofiring sessions. I spent Tuesday on oral and poster presentations. On Wednesday, I was invited to the EC’s workshop – Paving the way towards clean energy and fuels in Europe. The workshop focused on the innovation chain in the EU for bioenergy, advanced biofuels and renewable fuels, and biomass-based co-generation of heat and power. Reports from previous and new EC Horizon supported projects were available. One of the new projects is on retrofitting a high efficiency 731 MW ultrasupercritical coal-fired power plant into a CHP plant.

I started Thursday with the Carbon capture and utilisation workshop. The EU’s Innovation Fund is one of the world’s largest funding programmes for the demonstration of innovative low-carbon technology. Professor Elvira Fortunato from the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors of the EU gave a presentation on novel carbon capture and utilisation technologies. The Group gave five recommendations for the EU to develop:

  • a methodology to calculate the climate mitigation potential of CCU
  • eligibility criteria for CCU projects
  • CCU novel technologies
  • a regulatory and investment framework for CCU applications comprising a set of clear rules and operational guidelines for CCU applications, and
  • an international framework to the Convention on Climate Change.

The workshop paid special attention to the potential role of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilisation (BECCSUS). Brazil is leading the world with its biogas and biomethane from sugarcane. Companies working on this topic, such as Shell, Abiogas, and the University of São Paulo, gave presentations on the latest developments. A by-product of ethanol production from sugarcane can be cofired with coal to generate power. However, although it has huge potential, BECCSUS does not exist yet at the demonstration level. Many potential issues need to be examined before this technology will be an option for the future (Tyndall, 2019).

The technical oral and poster presentations covered biomass torrefaction, gasification, pyrolysis, fouling and slagging caused by biomass firing, and emission control and ash utilisation from biomass firing. A couple of pilot-scale tests on cofiring biomass with coal in PC and FBC boilers were also included. A set of new pre-treatment technologies were proposed by South Korean Institute of Energy Research (KIER): Counter Flow Multi Baffle Drying (COMBDryTM) for coal and Counter Flow Multi-Baffle Pyrolysis (COMBPyTM) for biomass torrefaction. KIER has installed a 200kg/h pilot plant and attracted interest from China, Australia, Indonesia and Japan.

In recent years, the use of wood and wood residues for heat and power production from small-scale decentralised plants has increased in Japan. Cofiring biomass at large coal-fired power plants also attracted a lot of attention. As a side event of the conference, the EU-Japan biomass seminar addressed the recent development and challenges of biomass firing and cofiring in Japan.

The technical conference was closed on the late afternoon on Thursday with speeches from the Secretary of State of Energy for Portugal and Giovanni De Santi, the director of the EC Directorate for Sustainable Resources. The EC Technical Programme Chairman, Nicolae Scarlat, summarised the conference.

Biomass combustion is the oldest and most mature bioenergy technology. Technologies for biogas, bio-gasification, biochar production, and decarbonisation of transport are all catching up. He stressed that no single technology option is the solution. Public perception and acceptance are crucial for bioenergy development.