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Plain sailing and wheels up for advanced biofuels in Europe?

Advanced biofuels for Europe are key to reducing emissions in the national transport sectors. There have been commercial breakthroughs in fuels and technologies, business model have been changed and new policy measures have been adopted not least by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA). So, is it plain sailing and wheels up for the maritime and aviation transportation sectors?

Advanced networking opportunities are high on Svebio’s Advanced Biofuels Conference agenda. The annual event aims to provide insights on renewable transportation fuels, novel technologies and what is going on in biofuels policy.

Well, yes and no – it is one of the issues to be addressed during the Swedish Bioenergy Association (Svebio) 5th Advanced Biofuels Conference that will take place on September 17-19, 2019, in Stockholm, Sweden – check out which companies will be attending.

The event aims to provide insights on renewable transportation fuels, novel technologies and what is going on in biofuels policy, new production and feedstock sources. While land-based transportation has the widest choice of fuel options and powertrain combinations, marine and in particular aviation have more limited options to energy-dense liquid fuels.

Shipping majors such as A.P Møller – Maersk and CMA CGM have begun trialing marine biofuels in earnest while almost every major airline has had a biojet fuel flight trial by now. Indeed it seems that the private aviation sector may be taking the lead in terms of fuel replacement.

Industrial-scale

On the other hand, both shipping and aviation have comparatively few but large-centralised distribution and refuelling infrastructures and would need large-scale biofuel production to match – the “Altalto Immingham” project in the UK is one illustrative example of the latter whereas Anna Soltorp, Head of Sustainability at Braathens Regional Airlines (BRA) will discuss industrial scale-up for commercialisation of the Piteå biojet project in northern Sweden.

Liquefied biomethane for land and sea

Liquefied biomethane (aka bioLNG or LBG) is proving to be an option in the Nordics for both trucking and shipping. At the pump, biomethane has already reached over 94 percent share of the Swedish vehicle gas mix.

According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), over 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea and it is, by far, the most cost-effective way to move en masse goods and raw materials around the world.

According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), over 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea and it is, by far, the most cost-effective way to move en masse goods and raw materials around the world. In 2018, the IMO adopted an initial strategy on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships, setting out a vision to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping and phase them out, as soon as possible in this century.

Operators like Gasum are busy rolling out the LNG/LBG and CNG/CBG infrastructure across the Nordics, the Port of Gothenburg has already completed the first bunkering of LBG and in Norway, Biokraft AS has commissioned the world’s largest LBG production facility and signed long-term LBG supply deals with vessel operators – Marianne Langvik, Commercial and Finance Manager at Biokraft will discuss this during the conference.

Biochemical feedstock

In addition, there is another industry sector “lying in wait” eying advances in large-scale (advanced) biofuels production – the chemical industry. Green hydrogen, biomethane, biomethanol, and bioethanol are all platform chemicals used to make other chemical compounds and products such as plastics. Little wonder that eyes are on Haldor Topsoe’s “eSMR Methanol” technology for cost-competitive production of sustainable methanol from biogas.

It is all about green or renewable carbon – with the “circular bioeconomy” in mind, the concept of using cellulosic ethanol to produce a bioplastic that post-use is converted into a liquid biofuel to power the machinery used to harvest and transport the original biomass makes perfect sense.

Circular (bio)economy

Dr René Backes, Business Development Specialist Renewables, from global chemicals major BASF will discuss developing chemistry with renewable feedstock. BASF have, via BASF Venture Capital, taken positions in numerous biotechnology developers like P2 Science and LanzaTech though not all ventures have functioned – the Synvina joint venture seems to work better for Avantium without BASF.

A reflection of an ANA aircraft parked by a gate.

In June 2019, Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA) signed an off-take agreement with carbon recycler LanzaTech that will allow the company to purchase sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Nonetheless, one seemingly smart solution that BASF might be interested in, is from Australia-headed Licella that has developed a proprietary chemical recycling process (CaT-HTR) for End-of-Life Plastics (ELP).

Over a decade in the making, commercialisation seems to be on the doorstep with Timor-Leste set to become the world’s first plastic-neutral territory, Renew ELP and Neste have a project on the go in the UK while in New Zealand, Oji Fiber Solutions is contemplating a facility to complement its paper recycling business.

No doubt Steve Rogers, Business Development Manager, Licella, Australia will fill in the details, as will many others, during the upcoming Advanced Biofuels Conference in Stockholm.


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