LNEG Bioenergy and Biorefineries Unit (UB) develops all range studies on national biomass (including forestry, agriculture, agro industrial, aquatic, urban solid waste and bio-waste), both in terms of assessing its availability for economic valorisation and in terms of its conversion into energy and bioproducts.
The main activities under study are:
Mapping of national biomass resources – National potential by region of endogenous biomass for non-food purposes is evaluated, as well as the characterization and mapping of these biomass and bio-waste with potential for energy recovery, based on Geographical Information Services (GIS). In particular, LNEG performs the mapping to identify suitable areas for energy crops (agricultural, forestry) or for microalgae. Afterwards, the most suitable technological processes for the valorisation of these different types of biomass are proposed. Logistics studies and value chain evaluation models for biomass supply, energy consumption and environmental impact are also developed.
Biomass conversion technologies – LNEG has expertise in different valorisation processes applied to biomass (forestry, agriculture, agro-industrial and marine) and to municipal solid waste that allows its conversion into biofuels (liquid and gaseous), electricity, heat and bioproducts. Some of these processes have sufficient technological maturity to generate new business areas. The main technologies under study are:
Hydrothermal processes – Pre-treatment of biomass by hydrothermolysis with or without steam explosion that allows the separation of the hemicelluloses present in the lignocellulosic biomass. Soluble hemicelluloses can be converted into added value products (oligosaccharides, monosaccharides, and other higher value products). These fractionation technologies allow obtaining lignin-rich cellulose and solids suitable for industrial valorisation by chemical/biological processes.
Torrefaction – Slow heating thermal process up to 300°C, in inert atmosphere. Biomass loses moisture and the oxygen/carbon ratio is decreased, thereby its energy content increases, generating a uniform solid that retains about 70% of the initial mass and about 90% of the energy. This solid has greater hydrophobicity, greater resistance to microbial degradation and is easier to grind.
Fermentation and Enzymatic Hydrolysis – Biochemical technologies that are industrial mature for bioethanol production from molasses and starch. They are used, with some variants, in the advanced processes for the production of advanced ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass.
Gasification – Technology suitable for decentralized energy production in which biomass and wastes are converted into a gas to be used as biofuel or in chemical synthesis (Fischer-Tropsch, ethanol or methanol synthesis) for the production of liquid biofuels or bio-feedstocks for industry.
Flash Pyrolysis – Process that promotes the decomposition of organic matter in the absence of air or oxygen, causing the breakdown of larger biomass and wastes molecules into others with lower molecular mass. Currently LNEG’s main objective is to obtain bio-oils that can be used as road, marine or aviation biofuels or as intermediate materials to be processed in several industries.
Combustion / Cogeneration – Process that occurs with excess oxygen, for complete oxidation of biomass and wastes. The main purpose is energy and heat production. Cogeneration allows the production and combined use of heat and electricity, with special interest for biomass thermal energy utilisation. Cogeneration allows increasing conversion efficiency, while reducing gaseous emissions and operating costs.
LNEG also carries out studies on several emerging technologies:
- New thermochemical processes: hydrothermal carbonization, hydrothermal liquefaction and supercritical gasification
- Pre-processing/deconstruction with inorganic salts, ionic liquids, subcritical and supercritical fluids.