Bioenergy has the potential to help secure UK energy supplies, mitigate climate change, and create significant green growth opportunities if deployed effectively, according to a new report from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

Insights into the future Bioenergy Sector, gained using the ETI’s Bioenergy Value Chain Model (BVCM)‘, written by Dr Geraldine Newton-Cross, the ETI’s Bioenergy Strategy Manager, uses learnings from the ETI’s Bioenergy Value Chain Model (BVCM)

BVCM was designed to model full system bioenergy value chains over the next five decades to identify the most effective way of using bioenergy, taking into account the available resources, the geography of the UK, time, technology options and logistics networks.

It reaffirms the importance of combining bioenergy with CCS to help meet the UK’s 2050 Climate Change targets through the delivery of negative emissions and suggests that hubs of bioenergy production with CCS are created to produce economically efficient value chains for infrastructure planning.

Gasification is also identified as one of the most flexible, scalable, efficient and cost-effective bioenergy technologies for further development as it can produce multiple energy vectors, including hydrogen and syngas. The report also highlights some of the locational preferences in the U.K. for different bioenergy feedstocks.

Bioenergy can help secure UK energy supplies

Dr Newton-Cross said: “Deployed effectively, bioenergy has the potential to help secure UK energy supplies, mitigate climate change, and create significant green growth opportunities.”

“It could play two important roles as biomass combined with carbon capture and storage remains the only credible way to deliver negative emissions cost effectively and biomass and waste could deliver a significant amount of low -carbon energy in a future UK energy system. Our BVCM is a comprehensive and flexible toolkit that enables us to model how the UK bioenergy sector may develop over the next five decades.”

She added that the model helps to inform views on which biomass feedstocks should be grown, when and where, and which technologies are suitable for deployment across the UK to deliver the most valuable energy vectors and emission savings to the future U.K. energy system.

Biomass can make important contribution to GHG targets

Dr Newton-Cross concluded that “with the right prioritisation”, the UK could deliver sufficient sustainably produced biomass feedstock “to make a hugely important contribution to the delivery of the UK’s overall greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Biomass with carbon capture and storage remains the only credible, cost-effective route to deliver the negative emissions required to help the UK to meet its 2050 emission reduction targets.
  • The lowest carbon pathways convert biomass to hydrogen and power, in preference to biomethane and biofuels, although bio-heat could be an important low-carbon pathway where there is demand, and could act as an early market stimulus for UK-grown sustainable biomass feedstocks.
  • Gasification is a key technology for developing the bioenergy sector, as it is one of the most flexible, scalable, cost-effective and efficient bioenergy technologies in development.
  • Optimal locations for biomass production have been identified, taking in to account the system level trade-offs between where you may get maximum yields, and where you want to convert the feedstocks to energy.
  • Identification of the optimal combinations of feedstocks and conversion technologies at the specified locations for CO2 sequestration across the U.K.

The report highlights the most attractive areas for growing crops – the west and northwest of the UK for short rotation coppice willow, miscanthus in the south and east of the UK and short-rotation forestry in the south and east of the country, based on trade-offs between areas likely to give the better yields and the cost and emissions associated with where demand is greatest.

Hubs of bioenergy production when combined with CCS appear to be efficient value chain options. The report highlights gasification to hydrogen with CCS in the west of England at Barrow-in-Furness and Combined Cycle Gas Turbines running on syngas at Thames and Easington in the east of England as effective combined locations.

Lucy Hopwood, NNFCC’s Lead Consultant on Bioenergy and Anaerobic Digestion said: “The BVCM has provided some valuable insight into the future shaping of the bioenergy industry. As an industry, we are currently working towards the 2020 renewable energy targets, but as this date nears we need to think longer-term to 2030 – and even beyond that to 2050. Many of the steps in bioenergy supply chains involve long lead-in times and careful planning – it’s chicken and egg. We need to scale up feedstock production and conversion capacity, but without a long-term vision it’s difficult to do one without the other.”

She added that the? BVCM has enabled multiple scenarios and integrated pathways to be modelled, leading to the conclusion that bioenergy with CCS is the “only credible route” to meet the 2050 climate change target.

“It is important not only to assess the impact of change but also the likelihood of change,” she said. “Long-term planning and technology integration are essential, but in the absence of a long-term policy framework the likelihood of achieving this target remains questionable.”
To read the full report, click here.

Source: NNFCC, press release, 2015-03-24.