Editorial. The Demonstration Stage of European Bioenergy Sector (2)

Biomass for energy and bioproducts industry represents a valuable renewable feedstock with high potentials both for privates and for public sector. It is well known that Biomass represents not only an attractive feedstock for energy, but also the only available renewable resource able to replace fossils in chemicals and polymers production. The large interest of this green feedstock for different industrial sectors contributed to the development of biomass support initiatives both at national and European level. The impact on GHG emissions reduction, the potential import energy savings, the unlimited reserves and the potential socio-economic interest represented a valuable reason for European Union and for Industry to start investing in the sector. A wide diversified spectrum of new technologies now available contributed to increase the competitiveness of the sector in the last decades. The European financing programmes (Seventh Framework, intelligent Energy, Interreg, etc..) provided a strong vital support to research centers every year more. At present, after more than 20 years of impressive fast growth rate, biomass sector seems now to be in front of a crucial challenge.

The industrial development of biomass market have been slowed by five identified main aspects, each of them related to the expected development of the supply chain towards a real large scale level:


$11.     Limited European feedstock potential

$12.     Food-non food land use (Indirect Land Use Change)

$13.     Technology scaling up problems and need of installation cost reduction

$14.     Need of efficient large scale Supply chain S

$15.     Standardization

Due to the challenges imposed by these factors, most of the European Bioenergy and bioproducts sector have reached a first valuable mean target which can be named: demonstration stage.

To date there are few biomass valorization technologies considered fully developed and mature for large industrial use: i.e. the Biomass combustion for power and heat generation, the production of first generation biofules (sugar cane ethanol, vegetable oil-biodiesel, ..) and Biogas. These specific technologies reached a valuable level in the past years and they now represent a large part of biomass market. However, there won’t be a further increase in the European future without a deep change in the biomass valorization concept. If the bioenergy or bioplastics production would be based on high value feedstock like vegetable oil, corn seeds, and other cultivated biomass usually used for food production, therewon’t be not enough land in Europe to support a large scale development. ILUC states that.At the same time, high quality wood from EU forests won’t be enough in the case of an increase of large biomass power plants, (most of the European biomass power plant already use Canadian feedstock). This mainly because trunked threes take more than 5 years to grow again after cutting, and short rotation plantation not less than 3 years!  In summary: even if the global biomass resources are impressively wide, Europe can’t not say the same, and if the intent of the EC is to valorize most of our green energy potential, Europe must focus its attention on all biomass residues available. Prunings, straw, rice husk, forests and sawmills residues, organic waste, etc..This low value biomass is a cheaper feedstock, much more sustainable, and with huge reserves available. This direction seems to be the key for a large scale biomass industrial deployment in EU.