25 Jun 2018

Bio-based insulation materials facts and myths

Bio-based insulation materials could replace conventional materials in many cases without loss of thermal performance.

  1. Bio-based insulation materials could replace conventional materials in many cases without loss of thermal performance. It’s a fact.
    The heat insulation performance of bio-based insulation materials can compete with mineral or fossil based materials, such as rock wool, glass wool and polystyrene. The technical performance of several renewable insulation materials, such as cellulose and fibres from hemp, flax, kenaf and cotton, is comparable to that of the mineral benchmarks.
    Important is also the ability of an insulation material to store heat and to release it to a cooler environment. This indicator is called specific heat capacity. Natural insulation materials can be superior to traditional fossil or mineral based materials when it comes to heat buffering, because the specific heat capacity of natural insulation materials is higher than that of fossil or mineral based ones. This can be helpful to create a more comfortable indoor climate and to prevent overheating of rooms that sit below the roof in the summer.
  2. Bio-based insulation materials contribute to a pleasant and healthy indoor climate. It’s a fact.
    Insulation measures have caused the relative air humidity in many houses to be high, which can lead to growth of moulds. This is where bio-based materials can help. Scientific research has shown that most natural insulation materials can accumulate and conduct moisture. This moisture-regulating effect contributes to a balanced indoor climate throughout the year. This is especially important for people with respiratory diseases, asthma, atopic dermatitis, for which constant indoor humidity is very important.
    Sheep wool has an especially positive effect as it can absorb and neutralise a large variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can contribute to a sick building syndrome. It acts as a passive air purifier.
  3. Bio-Based insulating materials cause mould problems. It’s a myth.
    Mould occurs in buildings whenever humidity cannot escape or humid air meets a cold surface. The type of surface plays only a minor role. If properly installed, bio-based insulating materials do not pose a higher risk of mould formation than traditional insulation materials.
    In fact, bio-based insulation materials have a good moisture-regulating effect. They can accumulate moisture up to one third of their weight and then release it again, which ensures a pleasant and healthy indoor climate.
  4. Bio-based insulation materials are not really sustainable. It’s a myth.
    Natural insulating materials are ecologically high-quality products. Bio-based insulation contributes to energy saving and climate protection in three ways:
    Firstly, renewable resources have the advantage of requiring much less energy than conventional building materials such as mineral wool and fossil-based materials to be produced. They typically have much lower “embodied energy” levels.
    Secondly, natural insulation materials bind CO2 during the growth phase. Many natural insulating materials come from regional agriculture and forestry or can be obtained here in the future when demand increases. This means short transport distances, less import dependency and opportunities for rural areas. For many materials there is no conflict of use for other purposes.
    Thirdly, using natural insulation reduces CO2 emissions through thermal insulation during the lifetime of buildings.
    The picture is differentiated when it comes to disposing of bio-based insulation materials. Some materials can be reused (cellulose flakes, seagrass), some can be recycled (hemp mats, sheep wool). In theory, a lot of these materials could be composted, but composting facilities are reluctant to accept them. Therefore, in most case bio-based insulation materials will be incinerated.
  5. Bio-based materials are not durable. It’s a myth.
    Research shows that natural insulating materials are as durable as conventional materials. The Münster Chamber of Crafts can prove this in a long-term test based on the natural insulating materials installed in the “Construction and Energy” demonstration centre since 2004. Insulation materials made of flax, hemp, cellulose, wood shavings and wood fibre insulation boards were installed in the Münster demonstration centre and equipped with sensors. The thermal conductivity of the materials remained almost constantly low over the entire monitoring period and the insulation materials used provide for a very good, lasting heat protection. Moisture measurements also showed that no condensation accumulated in any wall or ceiling construction.
  6. Bio-based insulation materials increase the risk of fire. It’s a myth.
    Bio-based insulation materials do not pose an increased risk of fire if properly installed and used in accordance with fire protection regulation. Fire protection requirements can be met for a large number of construction projects through the application of certain fire retardants or cladding.
    In case of fire, bio-based insulation avoids extremely toxic fumes which cause much greater damage and mortal danger to those affected than the actual fire.
  7. Bio-based insulation materials have good sound insulation properties that are comparable to those of standard materials. It’s a fact.
    Bio-based insulation materials effectively protect against noise from inside and outside your house. Their sound insulation properties are comparable to those of standard materials and they have been used successfully for this application. In particular, flax, hemp, cork, reeds, straw and cellulose as well as wood fibre insulation panels provide excellent sound insulation.

(Article written by: www.allthings.bio/fact-or-myth/bio-based-insulation-materials-facts-myths/)


19 Jun 2018

Developments in resin testing

Rehap recently published results on the development of extracting tannin from softwood bark and the upscaling at Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP). Continued studies reveal further innovations.

The project, working closely with the team at BBEPP, have recently performed and evaluated tests on the hot water extraction of tannin from softwood bark and found that the best technique for doing so was using decantation (separating mixtures by removing a liquid layer free from precipitate) combined with centrifugation (separating the mixture through spinning).
This technique was successfully scaled-up at BBEPP to make 150Kg of tannin solution which was sent to partners Foresa for further modification.

Foresa, a producer of formaldehyde and resins, is currently carrying out laboratory tests with tannin samples sent by VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, in order to eventually develop, validate and up-scale products suitable for application in the targeted final bioproducts.

Foresa have been creating boards, also known as wooden panels for later use in the green construction industry, from the resin (a substance of plant origin) from tannin. These wooden panels are manufactured to be free of phenol, a very toxic adhesive in binding wood, and replaced with tannin resins. All resins need additives or catalysts to start the reaction, however these products are quality controlled to ensure their concentration in the wood is very low.

Once the resin has been tested to ensure it has no bad properties in it, Foresa will clarify the process, for example, the amount of glue, catalyst and additives as well as the time and temperature of press.

Once all the processes have been defined, Foresa will manufacture thousands of wooden panels before they are validated to be applied for construction of industrialised composite for green buildings.


18 Jun 2018

Press Release: The EU’s renewable energy ambitions: Bioenergy from forests is not always carbon neutral – and may even increase the EU’s carbon emissions

Replacing coal with forest biomass in power stations is not a simple fix – forest biomass with long carbon payback periods could increase atmospheric CO2 levels, putting Paris Agreement targets at risk. 

Since the launching of the EU’s clean energy package in November 2016, the European institutions and many Member States have emphasised their renewable energy ambitions, which culminated in political agreement on the recast of the renewable energy directive on 14 June 2018.  During the past year, EASAC has worked to draw the attention of policy makers to a glaring oversight in this ambition: the EU and its Member States continue to classify all biomass from forests as carbon neutral, renewable energy. It is simplistic and misleading to classify all types of biomass from forests as sources of carbon neutral renewable energy as explained in the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) report published in April 2017.

Today, EASAC is releasing a commentary to re-emphasise its original points and to strongly encourage policy-makers to reconsider their approach to the use of forest biomass for energy.  Whilst it may be too late to change the text of the directive itself, policy makers in the Member States could and should implement it in ways which reflect these scientific realities, and which will contribute positively to their commitments to the Paris Agreement.

It is often claimed that the carbon released by burning wood and other forest biomass is removed from the atmosphere when the vegetation grows back. This may be true in the long term, but policy-makers may not realise how much time is needed for this to happen. At the very least, it takes many decades, and in some cases, it will take hundreds of years for the carbon to be absorbed by new vegetation. In the meantime, the released carbon will contribute to climate change just as much as burning coal or oil.

The carbon neutrality argument – that the carbon dioxide emitted when biomass is burnt is fully compensated for by uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere due to plant growth – has given a strong boost to policies that aim to increase the use of forests as a source of bioenergy and as a substitute for fossil energy. Forest biomass is classified as renewable, and currently contributes substantially to the EU’s renewable energy targets. However, in reality, carbon emissions per unit of electricity generated from forest biomass are higher than from coal. In addition, when one harvests trees that have a large, ongoing carbon storage potential, then the emissions from burning the biomass are associated with the loss of a carbon sink, and the net effect on the climate is likely to be negative.

The oversimplified concept of carbon neutrality leads many to think that use of biomass is automatically ‘renewable’ and can be counted towards GHG emission reduction targets on an equal level with wind and solar.  Achieving carbon neutrality involves potentially long time periods and, in the context of the timescales relevant to Paris Agreement commitments, climate impacts range from positive to negative depending on the nature of the forest biomass used and post-harvest land use. Climate impacts from using forest biomass for energy must therefore be considered on a case-by-case basis together with the sustainability of forestry in EU climate and energy policy.

“There are significant dangers of shooting ourselves in the climate foot if we do not differentiate effectively between climate positive and climate negative uses of forest biomass”, said Professor Michael Norton, EASAC’s Environment Programme Director.

“As our recent report on negative emissions has shown, we are already in danger of not meeting the Paris Agreement targets. If the EU and Member States continue to count all forest biomass as renewable energy, and not validate their climate impacts on a case-by-case basis, we may even be increasing the EU’s carbon emissions through our ‘renewable’ energy policies”, he added.

“Renewable energy policies in the European Union are increasingly ambitious, which is a positive trend. But policy-makers must ensure that renewable energy is truly renewable within the relevant policy timeframe. Bioenergy from forest biomass with long carbon payback periods is not renewable in the context of the EU’s Paris commitments,” noted Dr. William Gillett, EASAC’s Energy Programme Director.


Notes for editors:

In April 2017, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published its major review of Multi-functionality and Sustainability in EU forests, which examined the policy implications of the increasing demands and expectations being placed on the limited forest resource in the EU. While the report covered a number of issues (including biodiversity and forest management strategies), the last year has seen most attention given to the question of how far forest biomass should be regarded as a source of ‘renewable’ energy and allowed to contribute to Member States’ emission reduction targets (and treated equally with solar, wind etc.).

The EASAC report showed that while some types of forest biomass (typically forest industry wastes and thinnings) could contribute to climate change mitigation, many options (especially those involving increased harvesting of mature trees) could have a significantly negative effect on climate change over extended periods, and therefore perverse outcomes from renewable energy policies which incentivise expanded use of forest biomass.

In the new commentary, EASAC points out that in the year which followed our report, EASAC experts have engaged with the Commission, the Parliament and other stakeholders on the science underlying the use of forest biomass within the debate and negotiations on the ‘Clean energy for all Europeans’ package. In these discussions, the concept of ‘carbon neutrality’ was frequently invoked to justify the increased use of all kinds of biomass, including forest biomass, without recognising the inherent weaknesses of the concept.

In view of the political agreement on the recast of the renewable energy directive, which was reached on 14 June, EASAC has decided to issue this short commentary re-emphasising the potential perverse effects of the over-simplified use of the carbon neutrality concept. It is hoped that this commentary will inform policy makers in the Member States and encourage them to implement the recast renewable energy directive in ways which fully reflect the scientific facts.  In particular, national regulations should ensure that incentives are limited to forest biomass with short carbon payback times, such as wastes and thinnings which can be shown to deliver positive contributions to climate change mitigation in the short periods relevant to achieving the Paris Agreement targets.

(Source: https://easac.eu/publications/details/multi-functionality-and-sustainability-in-the-european-unions-forests/)

15 Jun 2018

Turning grape skin into greener plastic? It’s possible

Apart from winemaking, grape skins are now used in manufacturing plastics, another eco-friendly approach to the go green movement in the industry.

Grapes are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They can be eaten in a lot of ways, but recently, experts have found another use for grapes: ingredients for greener plastics.

As the main ingredient in winemaking, grapes are in demand in different parts of the world. However, in the process, the seeds, skin and stems are discarded. But a research claims that the discarded skins can now be turned into greener plastics.

The fruit contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that can also perform as an anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic substance, can also prevent chemical reactions. Inside the human body, they can make plastics. The characteristics of grape skin depend on variety, terroir, vintage and geographic origin. The winemaking process could also be a major factor.

Converting fruit wastes into something useful is not new. According to Greener Package, a company called Veuve Clicquot has been using potato starch and grape skins in its champagne packaging. The company also utilized other materials such as sugarcane, corn, mushroom roots, limestone, potato starch, recycled jute sacks, and even sheep’s wool.

Aside from making greener plastics, grape skins are also great in making papers. Favini, the maker of agro-industrial waste-based paper, is optimistic with grape skin. Grape residuals have a high content of cellulose and lignin, which helps in the linking of cellulose fibers in the papermaking process, as noted in the article from Greener Package.

As people are becoming more aware of the need to conserve resources and preserve the environment, consumers are clamoring for other ways to use plastics. Edible food packaging is seen as one of the possible solutions for this problem. Experts are trying to improve the texture, taste and feel in order to gain the support and trust of the public.

David Edwards, a bioengineer, and professor from Harvard, believes the key could be grape skins. “We can basically surround any food or beverage with a skin like a grape skin that’s fully edible, and then consume it,” he said, per Index.

Grape skins have been known to bring health benefits. When combined with green tea, the benefits are multiplied. Aside from food, grape skins can also be converted as an ingredient to fertilizers, meat preservers, and alternative fuels. As what The Academic Wino reported, a study revealed that grape skins can also fight influenza and other viral diseases.

The dangers of using plastic are well documented, particularly how it aggravates the environmental problems. Aside from the fact that plastics take about 20 to 1,000 years before decomposing, the single use of plastics takes up significant resources such as crude oil, gas, and coal, per Onya. Imagine this nine pieces of plastic bags can be produced by enough petroleum to power a vehicle to a distance of one kilometer.

The marine life is also at higher risk because of discarded plastics. Birds and sea creatures often mistake floating plastics as food.

In a way, reducing the use of plastics is a great way to help worsen environmental problems. On the other hand, converting organic waste or discards such as grape skin into greener plastics or papers can also make significant changes towards a better future.

(Article written by: https://born2invest.com/articles/grape-skins-plastics-possible/)

11 Jun 2018

Rehap present two posters at renowned EUBCE

The 26th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition in Copenhagen featured some ambitious and interesting topics on the role of biomass for climate protection and sustainable development. Lars Wietschel and Raúl Piñero represented Rehap with two posters at the event and noted that the processing of biomass into biofuels for trucks and planes was one of the hot topics of the week.

Every year, thousands of delegates, speakers and presenters from around the world attend the prestigious European Biomass Conference & Exhibition (EUBCE) to discuss, collect, exchange and disseminate scientific and industrial know-how in the field of biomass.

On 14-17 May 2018, EUBCE saw participants from sectors including biofuels, biomass feedstock, waste management, bio-plastics and biopower attend. Lars Wietschel and Raúl Piñero presented two separate posters on the ground-breaking developments happening in Rehap: “Future availability of lignocellulose feedstock from agricultural harvesting residues”, and “A novel and quick method for characterising lignocellulosic materials in biorefinery processes: Thermogravimetric analysis and predictive kinetic model (TGA-PKM) method”.

Piñero’s poster was on defining standard methods and analysis procedures for evaluating the quality of the biomass used as feedstock using faster methods than already available.

Wietshel’s poster on the availability of agroforestry feedstock looked at the methodology tool Rehap has developed to forecast on a regional basis the future availability of lignocellulose feedstock from agricultural residues in Europe. Lignocellulose is a biomass component that can act as a substitute for petrochemicals.

Wietsche,l after his short oral presentation on the poster, struck up conversation with Berien Elbersen who was working on the S2BIOM project with a similar assessment on feedstock potentials. Though using different methodologies, the results were similar.

The conference and exhibition were heavily focused on technical products in the field of biomass valorisation and provided delegates with an eye-opening view into the trends and technologies that are currently being hyped. One in particular, hypothermal liquefaction, is the process of converting wet biomass into crude-like oil. With enough pressure and heat, biomass can be processed into fuel and used for truck and jet fuel.

As always, EUBCE was alive with speakers, developers, professors and some of the biggest names in the biomass industry, providing Rehap with an unmissable opportunity to both share its ground-breaking work and take away an abundance of new information.

For more information on Rehap’s attendance at EUBCE, please contact Lars Wietschel: lars.wietschel@wiwi.uni-augsburg.de

04 Jun 2018

How the ‘Model-T Ford of the bio-refining industry’ is offering new rewards from waste streams

“By converting 100 per cent of the biomass’s constituents, it becomes economically feasible to process at scales previously thought impossible…”

Virtually every person, organisation, and human activity in the world creates some type of waste. And its generation in most cases represents a hugely inefficient use of materials. Just think for a minute of some of them; black liquor created during industrial pulp & paper manufacturing, the corn stover left after harvest on the field, or the nut shells piling up in food factories.

But now, a company based just north of Atlanta, Georgia – Attis Innovations – is changing perceptions of what waste means, and has some major milestones approaching in 2018. Today we speak exclusively to Jeff Cosman their CEO and Helen Petersen about their approach, unique products, and the immense revenue potential their technology brings to the growing bio-economy.

We open up by asking Jeff to give us an introduction into the business: “On Earth, the most concentrated source of carbon in a plant is lignin but it’s considered a low-value by-product in production of paper, pulp and cellulosic ethanol and as such is often burned for energy production. For us at Attia, rather than lignin being used as an under-valued source of energy, we believe it has a much higher value when deployed as a renewable substitute for carbon in traditional petroleum-based products.”

Jeff goes on to say, “Our primary focus is creating new revenue streams from biomass, where its various constituents can be elegantly extracted and converted into a multitude of bio-based products for use in plastics, fuels, adhesives and many more. We believe that by capitalising on these new markets, existing pulp and paper and cellulosic ethanol facilities can generate between 35% and 100% more revenue per ton of biomass processed.”

So that presents the question, why hasn’t lignin been more widely extracted in the past? It has been attempted. However, methods to date have been known to damage the structure of the lignin molecules and thus diminish its usefulness.

This is where Attis’ proprietary technology shines. By employing a process that requires significantly less capital than traditional recovery methods while also delicately extracting and purifying the lignin, Attis can preserve the product’s natural properties at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, during this process, functional additives can be introduced to increase the performance of the lignin in a myriad of applications. Attis capitalises on lignin’s inherent properties and offers companies and even entire industries a cost-effective strategy for introducing bio-based content into their product portfolios.

Helen Petersen tells us more about the flexibility of their technology; “Unlike pulp and paper manufacturers or cellulosic ethanol producers, we are not solely reliant on cellulose content in our feedstock, and thus we can focus on various types of non-traditional biomass, opening the door for many agricultural by-products such as crop residuals, bark, sawdust, nut shells and many more.”

This is another point of differentiation with Attis’ technology, not only can it process nearly any form of biomass, but it is also simple enough to be economically scaled-down to a size that fits unique feedstock opportunities. Most biomass processing facilities require massive economies of scale and feedstock inventory to justify their investment. Companies can often struggle to process at a small scale, thus blocking out potential partners and limiting their geographic scope. Not so with Attis, as their technology is uniquely scalable to allow cost-effective processing at flow rates ranging from 200 up to 2,000 ton per day.

Helen further explains, “By converting 100 per cent of the biomass’s constituents, it becomes economically feasible to process at scales previously thought impossible. This creates the potential to boost economic growth and jobs in rural areas and propagate an inclusive bio-economy.”

Since its founding in May 2017 Attis Innovations has made rapid progress in commercialising its lignin extraction process and developing a portfolio of bio-based materials. This started with Attis’ recent announcement of the exclusive license to American Science and Technology’s (AST) biomass processing facility and associated intellectual property. AST’s processing facility allows for the accelerated evaluation of biomass feedstock opportunities as well finished product validation. In addition, the AST facility and laboratory can be utilised publicly for contract R&D services related to biomass processing and characterisation.

In conjunction with Attis’ vision to commercialise AST’s biomass processing technology, the company has made great strides in the development of bio-based materials from its unique, melt flowable lignin. February saw them announce the successful completion of performance testing for their lignin-based resin products with the results demonstrating outstanding mechanical and processing characteristics compared to virgin plastics materials. Attis was able to blend its melt-flowable lignin at 15-25 per cent inclusion rates in both polypropylene and polyethylene materials while retaining 100 per cent of the tensile modulus, 100 per cent of the impact strength, and over 90 per cent of the tensile strength.

These impressive results come as part of the company’s rapid development curve, and this offering could be used across a host of plastics applications, including automotive components, agricultural products, building and construction and other durable goods.

Read the complete article here.

(Article by: www.biobasedworldnews.com/how-the-model-t-ford-of-the-bio-refining-industry-is-offering-new-rewards-from-waste-streams)