The Appita Pan Pacific Fibre Value Chain Conference saw a full house with over 245 delegates from 17 different countries attending over the three days.
In Canada, the conversion of biomass to liquid fuels is a high government priority as expressed by Professor Jean-Michel Lavoie, University of Sherbrooke, and forms part of the drive to reduce CO2 emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Biofuel mandates for ethanol (5%) and biodiesel (2%), coupled with tax credits to 2023 and the current excess of green electricity in Canada represents an opportunity that Professor Lavoie is pursuing actively via two projects; Resolve technology which involves converting bark to ethanol and wood pellets, and PtX technology which combines CO2 and green electricity to produce jet fuel.
In an excellent presentation, Dr. Ian Suckling, Scion reviewed the New Zealand (NZ) Biofuels Roadmap project that aimed to inform and stimulate debate on the large-scale production and use of liquid biofuels in NZ. The study involved extensive model development and situational analysis as inputs into scenario options that were then extensively discussed with key stakeholders. Multifactor optimization was achieved by dividing land into small arrays, considering 5-year periods, 5 land classes, 20 plus feed stocks, 20 plus conversion technologies and 4 family fuel classes. It was concluded that NZ could produce biofuels on a large scale and reduce its carbon footprint with 15% energy savings while supporting strong regional development, but would require strong Government leadership and support.
In a second talk, Dr. Suckling presented an overview on the wood energy industry symbiosis project conducted collaboratively over 4 years by Waikato University, GNS and Scion. Symbiosis is defined as an association between two or more industrial facilities in which waste or by-product from one becomes the starting material for another. The program consisted of three projects; quantifying wood energy industrial symbiosis, technical de-risking investigations and identifying NZ wide symbiosis opportunities. Dr. Suckling provided details on a case study on what an expanded wood cluster might look like at the top of the north island. The symbiosis concept was expanded in two further presentations; one by Dr. Martin Atkins, University of Waikato who looked at biorefinery options around Kraft mills and the other by Suren Wijeyekoon, Scion who investigated options for a Kawerau industrialcluster.
Dr. Atkins used P-graph analysis as a computational tool for process synthesis and the optimisation of costs to prioritise a multitude of options in assessing combinations of feed stocks, processes and products. The number of potential processing routes is given as 2n and this can lead to a staggering number of choices. For example, 35 operating units would have 34 billion alternatives that can only be sensibly compared using modern computing techniques. In the Kawerau study, comparison of the economic data from examining four new wood processing opportunities and the screening of elevenoptions using the Woodscape model led to two more in-depth studies on tannins and briquettes from bark, and lactic acid from sawdust as potential symbiotic opportunities.
In an interesting webcast presentation, Dr. Junyong Zhu, University of Wisconsin discussed recent progress in wood fractionation towards complete valourisation of lignin and carbohydrates for an advanced forest bio-refinery. Commercial lignin are all highly condensed, unlike re-polymerised lignin that is much more stable. This led him to investigate acid hydrotropic fractionation using p-TsOH to isolate lignin under varying conditions of time, concentration and temperature, and to characterize these fractions using different analytical techniques. According to Dr. Zhu, lignin valourisation will be the next big thing.