Perspectives for Greening European Fossil-Fuel Infrastructures Through Use of Biomass: The Case of Liquid Biofuels Based on Lignocellulosic Resources
Review article, 2021
Given the importance of climate change it is vital to find a transition away from fossil fuels. The transition will include electrification of several sectors, for example road transport, but considering the strong dependency on carbon-based fuels and associated infrastructures, it is reasonable to assume that biomass-based hydrocarbon will play a key role to smoothen the transition away from fossil fuels. This study provides an analysis of direct and indirect technological options for liquid biofuels based on lignocellulosic resources in the context of greening European fossil-fuel infrastructures. Direct options are those which result in integration of biogenic feedstock in a fossil-based process and then co-processing in a downstream conventional unit or substituting a conventional part of the production chain of a liquid fuel by a bio-based one. Indirect options are those which pave the way for ramping-up biomass supply chain in the form of infrastructure and market. Examples of direct options in the focus of this study are biomass gasification for production of intermediates and biomass pyrolysis substituting fossil feedstock. Examples of indirect options are co-firing biomass in coal-fired power plants and integrating biomass gasification plants with district heating (DH) networks. Such options are important for establishing biomass supply chains and markets. This study also assesses the potential of biomass use in other industrial sectors not directly related with fossil-based fuel or energy production, such as the pulp and paper industry and the iron and steel industry. In this context, opportunities and barriers for both direct and indirect greening options are discussed, focusing mainly on technological and logistic aspects. It is highlighted that fossil-fuel infrastructures can act as drivers for the development of advanced biofuels production as they can reduce the initial risks, in terms of cost and technological maturity, offering the opportunity to increase gradually the demand for biomass, and develop the logistic infrastructure. It is, however, important to make sure that such biofuel production processes are part of a long-term strategy, which needs incentives to overcome current barriers and eventually phase out fossil infrastructures.