New research hub in Europe receives grant, prepares for opening

By Erin Voegele | July 19, 2012

A new bioenergy hub in Europe that will focus on the deployment and investigation of sustainable bioenergy sources was announced July 17 by U.K. Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts. The Supergen Bioenergy Hub was founded with a EUR3.5 million ($4.3 million) grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of the RCUK Energy program.

Several organizations will participate in the hub, including six research institution and 10 industrial partners. Aston University, the University of Bath, the University of Leeds, the University of Manchester, Newcastle University and Rothamsted Research represent the research institutions that will lead the hub’s activities. Industry partners include Drax, Progressive Energy, Renewable Energy Association, North Energy Associates, Sustainable Energy Ltd., Renewable Energy Systems Carbon, Greenacres, Biomass Energy Centre, Danish Tecnologik Instituit and Dalkia.

The Supergen Bioenergy Hub is scheduled to begin work on August 1. The collaboration will be directed by Patricia Thornley of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester. The hub is expected to initially take on 10 research projects, that range from biofuel production to carbon capture from biopower emissions.

Specifically, the University of Leeds will lead two projects that focus on reducing emissions from biomass combustion. The  University of Leeds will also lead projects focusing on carbon capture and storage. The University of Bath will lead a project that will look at alternative routes to producing biogas from a wider range of feedstocks, as well work to assess the economic and environmental benefits of torrefying biomass to improve its physical characteristics during handling. Rothamsted Research will lead research related to the mitigation of biomass loss within the supply chain. The University of Manchester will conduct work related to maximizing greenhouse gas savings, while Newcastle University will lead research related to biomass gasification. Aston University will work on fast pyrolysis research, as well as woody-biomass to fuels techniques.

“Research and innovation play a vital role in our transition to a low carbon economy,” said Willetts. “The SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub will bring together leading academic and industrial partners to look at this pressing challenge and develop practical solutions for a greener future.”