21 December 2011

New research platform paves way for future bio-based society

Sustainable biomass

The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation is donating 112 million Danish kroner for a new platform which brings together Denmark’s leading players within the sustainable use of biomass – the University of Copenhagen, DTU, A.P. Møller Mærsk, Novozymes, Haldor Topsøe, Man Diesel & Turbo and Dong Energy. The platform will provide a framework for the parties’ joint research aimed at developing specific sustainable solutions for the production of building blocks for chemicals and bio-based fuels for the global shipping industry. The platform will be headed by Professor Claus Felby from the University of Copenhagen.

Danish corn fieldOver the next five years, the research platform will develop new hybrid technologies which will pave the way for an even more sustainable and efficient production of biofuels than is currently possible. 

"We will soon be forced to replace a substantial part of our energy supply with biomass, while at the same time having to produce more food. This calls for extremely efficient utilisation of our biomass resources. Not only technologically, but also in terms of how we grow and procure the biomass. The strong competencies within the biological and chemical conversion of biomass represented by, among others, Novozymes, the University of Copenhagen, Haldor Topsøe and DTU now make it possible to use biomass far more effectively, for the benefit of, for example, sea transport," says Professor Claus Felby from LIFE – the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, who is heading the platform.

Biofuels for the shipping industry

The development of biofuels for the shipping industry is an overlooked opportunity in a global market:

"For the past 75 years, the shipping lines have used oil, but looking at the next 75 years this is likely to change. CO2 emissions must be reduced, and in the long term oil is simply going to run out. Sustainable biofuels have the potential to become a real alternative to fuel oil, and we look forward to involving ourselves in the collaboration to develop biofuels tailored to the shipping industry," says Jacob Sterling, Head of Climate and Environment at Maersk Line.

Crops must provide both food and biomass for fuel and chemicals

However, the increased use of biomass must not lead to intensified competition and a fight for agricultural land. According to the research platform, this will be avoided by turning existing crops into so-called dual-purpose crops, whereby the same crops can be used to produce biomass from stems and leaves, while at the same time yielding the same number of grains.

As part of the research project, the solutions will be tested on a large scale on engines and ships owned by MAN Diesel & Turbo and Maersk.

"The project is not only very technologically promising and holds considerable growth potential; it also represents a chance to establish Danish production and create jobs within the agricultural, industrial and transport sectors. In other words, the platform will take Denmark to the forefront of the development of a bio-based and sustainable economy," continues Professor Claus Felby.

The platform will work closely with the future Copenhagen Plant Science Center.


Professor Claus Felby
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