The objective of the SeSE platform is to link the results from the other projects in BioValue into a production/value chain context in order to assess system-wide sustainability of biomass production and biobased products, in terms of economic impacts, environmental effects and ethical aspects.

The completed PhD study on “Environmental Sustainability Assessment of Biomass and Biorefinery Production Chains: Using a Life Cycle Assessment Approach” concluded that it is important to consider a wide range of environmental impact categories to avoid flawed decisions in the prioritization of biomass as feedstocks for biorefineries, as biomasses responded differently to different impact categories. For example, grass-clover and ryegrass had higher carbon footprint compared to willow, but the freshwater ecotoxicity was lower. Alfalfa generally had a low environmental impact across all impact categories. The lowest negative impact on biodiversity was found in grass-clover followed by grasses in general, compared to e.g. straw from cereal crops. With regard to biobased products, a net positive environmental gain was found with bioethanol and biobased lactic acid compared to the petro-based and conventional products. The study also found that efficient and optimized production of biomasses e.g. increased harvest yield and better management of nutrients are among the most important measures for the production of biobased products with minimum environmental impact.

Within SeSE a study on “Environmental and economic analysis of adipic acid production from lignin” has been conducted in collaboration between DTU MAN and NREL (CO,USA) investigating the potential utilization of lignin for material production. Lignin is regarded as a waste in current biorefinery concepts and burned on site to supply energy to the biorefinery. By utilizing “biological funneling” it is possible to utilize such stream to produce adipic acid. The research investigates economic and environmental benefit of diverting lignin from energy production to value added product. Furthermore different Downstream Separation Process (DSP) will be investigated to identify the most beneficial separation setup. The study shows environmental and economic benefits by utilizing lignin for adipic acid production, which could lead to large credit to the whole biorefinery. DSP largely affects the environmental profile of this conversion pathway, and this topic could lead to further investigations.

A study examined the possibilities and cost of a year-round supply of 150,000 tonnes biomass (dm) to a biorefinery facility. The calculations were based on a geographical area of 50,000 hectares, where the specific crop distribution for 2014 was determined using GIS based data. A generic GIS based microeconomic simulation model was used for the calculations. To illustrate the influence of soil quality on costs the calculations have been done for two representative agricultural areas with different soil types and therefore different crop composition. The study found that substantial amounts of biomass for biorefinery purposes can be produced within the current agricultural setting without affecting the food and feed production.

An economic model for the Danish agricultural sector (ESMERALDA) has been adapted to the analysis of scenarios for expansion of biomass production and refining. The model distinguishes different farm types and hence enables the analysis of the supply of biomass for such new value chains from different farm types, as well as the impacts on these farm types in terms of other agricultural production, costs, land use, income, employment, etc.  A study including scenarios with both green and yellow biomass value chains showed that that the two scenarios had a positive economic impact on the DK agricultural sector.

Figure from: “The Fundamentals Of Bioeconomy – The Biobased Society” (2016). 3F, Lene Lange, DTU in collaboration with Jane Lindedam, BioValue SPIR