Energy forests on the Scope of Biorefineries

By Mônica Caramez Triches Damaso – Embrapa Agroenergy

The perspective of demand increase for fuel in several countries around the world, the actions are being promoted for the renewable energy has a significant participation in the energy matrixes.
Brazil became a world reference on fuel ethanol production derivate from sugar cane. However, the biomass diversification used to generate several agroenergetic products is essential to expand the offer of energy.
Factors such as our large territorial extension, the rich biodiversity and favorable climates conditions, expands the opportunity the use of the raw material oleaginous, saccharin, starches and lignocelllosic, and they or their residues and derivates can be used to generate energy.
The raw materials of lignocelllosic , represented in this article by the forests, are abundant alternatives, sustainable, and not compete with the food chains and great potential use to produce energetic inputs with added value, both liquids (diesel, gasoline, methanol and ethanol), solids (carbonaceous solid residue, firewood and charcoal) and gaseous (fuel gas, synthetic gas and hydrogen).
Beyond the question of raw material, another point to be discussed is the technical and economic viability of the adoption of sustainable solutions to transform this raw material in energetic products. The world trend indicate that for companies users of biomass become competitive, they need suit to the standard already used in an oil refinery, both in production scale and product diversity.
Thus, the production of biofuel, chemical inputs, materials, food, feed and energy should be made jointly, which becomes possible within the concept of a biorefinery that integrates several conversion routes – biochemical, chemical and thermochemical – in search of the better utilization of biomass and energy it contains.
In the case of forest raw materials, company’s producer of paper and pulp are those that would be more prepared to fit to the precepts of a biorefinery.
In this context, Embrapa Agroenergy, Embrapa Forest and Engineering School of Lorena / USP, in partnership with other Units of Embrapa, the private sector and educational institutions and research are proposing a component of the Energy Forestry Project that has the general objective study, develop and evaluate technological routes for obtaining energy from forest biomass, based on the concept of biorefineries.
That component intends to evaluate biochemical routes, including hydrolysis and fermentation for ethanol production from wood and waste of industry of recycling paper and thermochemical (pyrolysis and gasification), from wood to produce bio-oil, gas of the synthesis and of solid carbonaceous residue, gasification of cellulignin and wood with supercritical water for hydrogen production.
At present, the ethanol production from sugar cane has not been enough to attend even the domestic consumer market, due to the lack of raw material, which became worst with the increase of consumption. The ethanol from forest biomass can supplement the already produced for this market, enabling even the increase in export.
The taking of H2 from biomass consist in a great opportunity for the derivates production of light and clean of oil, as the availability of this gas is a limiting factor for the production of derivates from the oil, difficulting to market expansion of this sector.
The bio-oil is used as biofuel of direct application in boilers and furnaces, or, if refined, could be used as raw material for obtaining energy derivatives and other materials, while the carbonaceous solid residue can be used as soil fertilizer. The synthesis gas is used for obtaining several inputs and chemical products of industrial interest.

The research progress related to the integrated production of biofuel, chemical inputs, feeds, biofertilizers, materials and energy will be strategic to promoting sustainable development in various regions and enlarge security of our country.

Source: Revista Opiniões, December 2011 – February 2012
Click here to read the complete version of this article (Portuguese)
Click here to more information about Embrapa Agroenergy
Translated by: Gilberto Silber Schmidt
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