Libmonster ID: RU-17223
Author(s) of the publication: Yevgeniya SIDOROVA

by Yevgeniya SIDOROVA, journalist

The regular Biomass: Fuel and Energy International Congress took place in Moscow in April 2012. It was organized by the Russian Biofuel Association for exchange of knowledge and experience between scientists, representatives of national business and foreign companies, as well as public officials. The congress participants noted that rational use of renewable resources promoted not only development of economy and scientific potential of those countries which chose this course, but also, in perspective, improvement of ecological situation due to reduction of carbon dioxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere of our planet.

The participants discussed production and utilization of engine and boiler fuels (ethanol, butanol, bio-oil, peat bricks, etc.) produced from renewable raw materials*. The experts expressed confidence that development of innovative economy in our country would be associated, not in the last turn, with formation of this industry. There are enough grounds for that end.

FAVORABLE SITUATION

At present the production of bioethanol and biodiesel has to be curtailed in Europe under the conditions of a financial crisis. However, there is no intention to abandon this component of car fuel, which lowers the level of exhaust gases. High quality standards of gasoline can be maintained upon condition of cooperation with countries possessing vast areas for cultivation of necessary agricultural crops. In other words, a favorable situation shapes well both for Russian agrarians and biotechnologists, whose potential was not used adequately up to now.

This idea was advanced in a number of reports, including by Vladimir Baskov from the Russian Power Engineering Agency and Stepan Dudarev, coordinator of the Bioenergetics technological platform from the National Research Center "Kurchatov Institute". The latter noted that search for new sources of biomass for production of fuel and energy is carried out under the said platform and with participation of scientists from the Lomonosov Moscow State University. For example, in this regard algae can be rather useful. Yana Sergeeva, Cand. Sc. (Chem.), research assistant from the RAS Vinogradsky Institute of Microbiology told about possibility of biofuel production based on lipids of micellar fungi.

Alexander Yanenko, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), Deputy Director of the State Research Institute of Genetics and Selection of Industrial Microorganisms told in an exclusive interview to our magazine that the scientific community sys-

See: A. Yanenko, "Priorities of Industrial Biotechnology", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2006; A. Sinitsyn, "Versatile Enzymes", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2007.--Ed.

стр. 28

tematically advances original ideas concerning an increase of fuel biomass (including cultivation of algae and micellar fungi), but today business is interested only in those studies, which make up a technological chain and are profitable. But the latter depends on economic conditions, i.e. the price of a resource and the cost of its delivery to a consumer. For example, construction of the East Siberian Integrated Plant of Biotechnologies* in Tulun of the Irkutsk Region is possible due to the availability of local wood as a raw material for production of alcohols and sugars.

However, a contradiction arises between current interests of people and perspective objectives of scientists, as studies should be conducted not only with a view to introduction of a development plan, but also not to forget to critically analyze the new information obtained directly at this or that national laboratory or supplied by foreign colleagues. But orientation exclusively to applied targets leads to losses as a scientific basis grows only in "the culture medium" of experiments, even unsuccessful. He stressed that it should be realized that the expert community in our country was preserved as such only until its members carried on basic studies, and this condition of innovative development still exists. But we can lose it without the state support.

Besides, Anna Schmidt, staff member of the German-Russian Cooperative Union in the sphere of Biotechnologies, told the congress participants about the activities of the Industrial Biotechnology Bureau, founded

* See: A. Sinitsyn, "Innovation Portfolio", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2012.--Ed.

стр. 29

at the Bach Institute of Biochemistry in Moscow in 2010. It carries on fruitful cooperation between German companies and Russian research institutions. The subject for joint studies are production methods of fuel and chemicals and processing of renewable resources. For example, the Russian-German project is launched to produce aviation kerosene from biomass of false flax (Camelina sativa), a drought-resistant weed-infested plant of the cabbage family.

The congress discussed research findings of Russian scientists, which had already received practical application. For example, Vadim Yakovlev, Cand. Sc. (Chem.), head of the laboratory of catalytic processes of renewable feedstock processing of the Boreskov Institute of Catalysis attached to the RAS Siberian Branch*, was engaged in the problem of industrial processing of bio-oil (substance of a complex composition produced from a vegetable feed) to transport fuel. Rapid pyrolysis of wood waste biomass (i.e. thermal decomposition of organic compounds without air access) results in the formation of a small amount of gases, solid residue and, above all, a liquid similar to diluted tar, whose yield is less than 70-80 percent and after a further treatment, can be used as a motor fuel. This bio-oil is to be subjected to biopropagation by grafting due to its high (up to 55 percent) content of oxygen, and the said institute's experts suggested that the original nickel-based catalysts be used, which exceeded the known analogs in all characteristics. Today this work is waiting to be introduced into national enterprises.

The scientists made an analogous successful search also for improving the production method of another motor fuel, namely, biodiesel. Instead of homogeneous catalysts (H2SO4, NaOH) being in one phase with reacting substances, Yakovlev and his colleagues used heterogeneous catalysts (barium hexa-aluminate) characterized by higher chemical and thermal stability and which allowed cheapening of the production process by reduction of liquid wastes. The Siberian scientists have also worked out a combustion method of solid carbon-containing fuels (coal, peat, lignine, sawdust) in a boiling layer of the catalyst for heat generation, already used in practice. This method was used in the construction of pilot boiler-houses of 1-6 Gcal/h in Kemerovo, Chita and Amur regions and the Altai Territory by the ThermoSoft-Siberia engineering company.

PROMISING ALTERNATIVE

A separate section of the congress was devoted to bioenergy problems. Here, or rather also in the context of discussion of transport fuels, the environmental policy arose repeatedly. Today it is not incidental that the efforts of the international community are directed to increase a share of ecologically safe raw materials in this sphere as contamination of the atmosphere by the so-called greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) in the process of combustion of oil, gas and coal, "preserved" in the earth many millennia ago, can lead, according to some experts, to global warming.

Wastes of agriculture, forestry and municipal economy converted to fuel by current technologies are the fifth renewable energy source in terms of productivity after solar, wind, hydro- and geothermal energy. Besides, when this biomass is utilized, as much of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere as plants in its composition have consumed, i.e. the present carbon cycle is not

See: V. Parmon, "Controlled Conversions", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2007.--Ed.

стр. 30

disturbed. The congress, which was held in the International Year of Sustainable Power Engineering for All*, gave a full treatment to the problem of utilization of such valuable resource.

Today a share of renewable energy sources in the world makes up 14 percent, but by 2030 it will reach 30 percent according to calculations of UN specialists. In Russia this index is far less, only 1 percent, and by 2020 it is planned to reach 4 percent. Nonetheless, in our country the interest in technologies of biomass processing for utilization in power engineering is considerable, as this resource is in great demand on the foreign markets as well. For example, peat bricks are widely used. In this connection, Viktor Shmyglov, representative of the Fortum international power engineering concern told the congress that in Estonia such fuel costs less than gas, and in the cities of Tartu and Pärnu thermal and electrical energy was produced solely from peat mined in Belorussia. It is needless to say that in Russia this resource is in abundance. Widespread in Europe and the USA are also pellets (cylindrical granules of a standard size, up to 5 cm long and around 1 cm in diameter) from different wastes (wooden, husks of sunflower seeds, etc.) convenient for use, transportation and storage. In this case, scientists have to find the process solutions allowing reduction of production costs of this exported product. This problem was touched upon in the report of Viktor Zaichenko, Dr. Sc. (Tech.), head of the laboratory of Problems of Energy Saving of the RAS Joint Institute of High Temperatures.

Production of biogas* from stock-raising wastes was another major subject of discussion at the congress. The reports on the bioenergy potential of numerous agricultural regions of our country (Kaluga, Vladimir, Orel and others) proved that initiation of respective kinds of production could be a supporting point for development of Russian regions. Yuri Shushkevich, Cand. Sc. (Econ.), head of the project in the sphere of biotechnologies of the holding Basic Element, stressed that in some instances a repeated settlement of abandoned agrarian territories can take place after the outflow of population in recent decades. In other words, formation of the biotechnological sector of national economy will play a key social role.

In the 21st century the concept of progress in public conscience is closely connected with nature conservation, therefore biotechnologists strive to offer their ideas in the context of ecological ethics, which is quite rightful. But it is just this sphere of knowledge, which introduces into life biodecomposable materials, which will perhaps in time force out petrochemicals, such as polyethylene and polypropylene. The "green" fuels pollute the atmosphere in a lesser degree. And the new technologies change the character of chemical production thus reducing environmental load and preserving human health.

* The UN General Assembly ruled to declare the year 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Power Engineering for All in recognition of its importance for a sustained development.--Ed.

* Biogas is gas produced in the course of hydrogen or methane fermentation of biomass.-Ed.


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