ETI seeks partners for UK biomass logistics project

By Erin Voegele | March 22, 2016

The U.K.-based Energy Technologies Institute has announced it is seeking partners for a new six-month bioenergy project that aims to improve the understanding of the future of biomass logistics in the U.K.

According to the ETI, bioenergy can play a significant and valuable role in a long-term low-carbon U.K. energy system. However, delivering the greatest value from bioenergy will depend on the ability to source and distribute sufficient biomass from sustainable sources, either domestic or imported.

The project develops infrastructure pathways for different bioenergy scenarios through 2050 and aims to identify key points and actions needed to support the sector through that time, particularly scenario-resilient actions without which the infrastructure required would not keep pace with bioenergy demand. The ETI also noted the infrastructure pathways developed through the project will take into consideration how biomass logistics infrastructure has developed to date and will identify lessons that can be learned from the development of other relevant sectors, such as oil, coal and other commodities.

According to documents published by the ETI, the organization anticipates the project will be delivered in four parts. Part one is expected to focus on the review and analysis of current U.K. biomass infrastructure, including biomass distribution networks for both domestic and imported feedstocks.

Part two of the project is expected to focus on scenario analysis and the development of infrastructure pathways and action plans. The ETI said it will provide four scenarios for the bioenergy sector out to 2050, with each scenario increasing the size of the bioenergy sector to the size that modeling suggests is required to cost-effectively meet 2050 greenhouse gas targets. For each scenario, the ETI plans to include a high-level summary of the scale and location of pellet imports and domestic crop production for bioenergy along with key demand centers for biomass, including the type of conversion plants used. In addition, ETI also said it would provide details of port import capacity and transport cost assumptions used in its modeling, with the project team expected to provide updated data where necessary. Under Scenario A, the sector is based primarily on imports, with domestic production increasing so that they are roughly equal in proportion by 2050. The scenario also assumes the deployment of bio plus carbon capture and storage (Bio+CCS) starting in the 2030s, which drives a centralized costal deployment to power and hydrogen. Scenario B also assumes the same situation with respect to imports and domestic production, but assumes no Bio+CCS, which drives more distributed deployment with a larger customer base to heating or combined-heat-and-power (CHP). Scenario C assumes a sector based primarily on imports through 2050 with deployment of Bio+CCS starting in the 2030s. Scenario D also assumes a sector based primarily on imports with no Bio+CCS.

Part three of the project is expected to focus on identifying commonalities, differences and low-risk actions using the pathways and action plants developed in part two. Part four would apply the national scenarios to specific case studies.

“The bioenergy sector has seen significant growth in recent years, leading to increases in the quantity of both imported and domestically produced feedstock,” said Hannah Evans, bioenergy strategy analyst at ETI. “ETI’s analysis shows that bioenergy can play a significant and valuable role in cost-effectively meeting the U.K.’s 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) targets. While supply has been able to keep up with demand to date, as the bioenergy sector continues to grow further investment will need to be made to ensure sufficient quantities of biomass can be imported, stored, transported, processed and distributed to end users. In order to ensure the commercial viability of the biomass sector and to minimize the cost to the consumer, it is important that the infrastructure for biomass logistics is developed and used efficiently, learning lessons from other sectors where appropriate.”

“While domestic sources offer the greatest energy security and sustainability benefits in the longer-term, the U.K. currently doesn’t have enough of its own biomass feedstock today to supply a commercially-viable large-scale bioenergy sector,” Evans continued. “Therefore, the most pragmatic approach is to develop the sector based on near-term increases in biomass imports derived from sustainable sources, such that the key actors in the supply chain can ‘learn by doing’ in terms of logistics, handling, designing and operating bioenergy conversion technologies. In parallel, support will also be needed to build up a strong and commercially-viable biomass feedstock supply chain in the U.K. to enable domestic biomass supplies to continue to play a significant role.”

The request for proposals was issued March 14. A briefing workshop is scheduled for April 4. The deadline to submit a notification of intention to submit a proposal and return the non-disclosure agreement is April 18. The closing date for the submission of proposals is April 29. Additional information is available on the ETI website.