Biomass and Biofuels

Biomass is a plannable energy source, with significant developing forecasts in absolute and relative terms, and its use for energy purposes is a widespread and consolidated reality in our Country.

ENEA activities meet the need to support national industries to provide proper responses to system and technology innovation in the field of electricity and heat generation in small-sized plants (local agro-energetic production chains), and, in prospect, of second-generation biofuels.

With reference to the first issue, current initiatives at Casaccia and Trisaia Research Centres are related to the optimized use of biomass at the territorial level as well as the development, demonstration and qualification of innovative processes, technologies and components for the co-generation of electricity, heat, and/or biofuels at the local level.

Specifically, the initiatives underway are aimed at:

  • producing biogas to be used for electric power generation or in the grid as gas biofuel (biomethane) from codigestion of organic wastes, farm wastes and/or sugar energy crops;
  • exploiting energy from digestate as an alternative to the more traditional use as a farming amendant, by drying and pyrogasification processes, and even by mixing it with lignocellulosic biomass;
  • developing and testing of new technologies for the final use of the produced biogas, such as energy co-generation by combining energy from biogas and fuel cells, with a significant improvement in the final yields of energy conversion and greenhouse gas balance.

 

R&TD on second-generation biofuels is focused on the possible thermochemical and biochemical conversion processes of lignocellulosic materials such as, respectively, gasification into hydrogen and carbon oxide, and the fermentation of carbohydrates into ethanol, as well as the production of hydrogen from fermentation of humid biomass and biofuels from microalgae cultures.

Those activities relating to the development and testing of processes of lignocellulosic biomass conversion into gas or liquid energy vectors are performed at the Trisaia Research Centre, where several pilot plants have been built which are used for activities within research projects or in support of sector industries.

Particularly, research is carried out on the following subjects:

  • Testing of innovative production chains for ethanol derived from agroforestry biomass and polyannual ligneous and grass biomass cultures;
  • Biomass pretreatment with saturated steam at moderate temperatures (200 °C approximately) aimed at a first separation of its main components (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignine) for its best exploitation into energy or chemical products for food and material industry;
  • Development of second-generation processes for producing ethanol to be used in the transport sector. Such processes are based on highly-efficient and environmentally-friendly pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis fermentation, alcohol separation.

 

R&TD activities relating to energy and biofuel production from cultures of microalgae and other photosynthetic microorganisms are carried out at the Casaccia Research Centre’s Laboratory of microalgae technologies. They include the study, design, implementation and testing of pilot systems and plants, with a view to obtain massive large-scale cultures, particularly targeted at exploiting all the possible energy and non-energy products and byproducts.

 

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