Perspectives widened and knowledge gaps bridged at conference on ‘Building a sustainable European biofuel industry’

Researchers, industry specialists and policymakers from across Europe came together from 4 to 6 November in Gothenburg to review the status of bioenergy deployment, analyse the future of sustainable biofuel production and use in Europe and connect sectorial expertise, with the aim of supporting sustainable biofuel production and greenhouse gas mitigation.

The conference, organised jointly by Supergen Bioenergy Hub (UK), Bio4Fuels (Norway) and Renewable Transportation and Fuels (Sweden), focused on the key objective of sustainable biofuel implementation prospects in Norway, Sweden and the UK, and was supported by presentations from a wide variety of academics, industrialists and policy leaders on an extensive array of topics.

The first day was dedicated to a forum for early stage researchers, who were hailed by the conference organisers as the future of the bioenergy sector. This was followed by a site visit to Volvo Trucks, where participants enjoyed a guided tour of the factory on the ‘Tuve train’ followed by presentations from Volvo Trucks representatives on renewable and conventional diesel fuels.

The second day programme was opened by Anders Ådahl, Co-director Energy Area of Advance at Chalmers University of Technology, with introductions from the directors of the organising research hubs and a presentation from Robert Andrén, Director General of the Swedish Energy Agency. There followed plenary sessions on policy, industry and sustainability as well as parallel sessions on sustainable biomass resources and conversion technologies from biomass to sustainable biofuels.

The day closed with an opportunity to view poster presentations and network over dinner.

The last day of the conference featured a plenary session on industry and end use, with parallel sessions on the potential for biochemical and biomaterial byproducts and alternatives, as well as the environmental and social impacts of European biofuel deployment.

Anders Ådahl closed proceedings alongside the organisers, with input from the audience via Mentimeter, answering questions such as which research areas to prioritise within advanced biofuels and whether European research is adequately supporting the biofuels sector.

Key issues raised were systems analysis, applied research, research costs, techno-economics and the challenges of industrial scale up, as well as knowledge sharing across borders and sectors.

Commenting on the issue of commercial scale-up, Supergen Bioenergy Hub Director Patricia Thornley said: “The technology’s there, but it’s about making the correct technology choices to deliver systems that are actually sustainable. There’s more to do around having the right frameworks in place to incentivise that. We need to isolate the bits of work that make something sustainable and which improve performance, and then share the knowledge on that.”

Supported by the vast majority of the audience, the research hub directors agreed it would be useful to hold another UK-Nordic conference on advanced biofuels, and signalled the benefits of involving Denmark and Finland to further widen perspectives and knowledge.

Resources and photos can be viewed on the conference webpages.