Towards sustainability through biomass

E. Moula, M. M. (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation


Renewable sources have become crucial for sustainablity. As an abundant source, biomass has the potential to replace fossils for the chemical and energy production. Biomass processing has potential benefits regarding sustainability pillars of environment, economy and society. The objective of this study is to investigate the role of biomass in sustainability and the necessary enhancements to achieve sustainable biorefinery. The criteria of sustainable biorefinery include fossil-independent production without compromising the food and animal feed, and flexibility to adapt the changes in market demand and feedstock availability as well as the minimum environmental impact.
Biomass is considered renewable and environmentally-friendly source. The net emission of biofuel usage is considered as zero, thus reducing carbon emissions. However, 1st generation biomass processing may not reduce the carbon emission when counting the steps for supplying the biomass, e.g. harvesting, machinery, fertilizers and distribution. Instead, biomass has the potential to replace the fossil sources when wastes/by-products of biomass sectors and disposed products are processed within a supply chain network. Biomass conversion processes are the heart of a supply chain network. However, biomass conversion technologies are economically uncompetitive compared to fossil-based production when producing single product from single feedstock. The criteria of sustainable biorefinery can be achieved with multi-feed-multi-product, flexible conversion processes. This would enable sectoral integration network as the supply chain structure: pre-treatment at each biomass site, regional conversion processes producing energy and platform chemicals, and centralized upgrading plants producing the final products. This structure reduces the risk of supply shortage for conversion processes and increases the revenue of biomass sectors as well as providing additional employment.
The sectoral integration network would provide societal benefits as well. The revenue of rural areas increases through providing suitable raw material to the regional conversion processes. Therefore, the population can be distributed more evenly, thus facilitating the distribution of social services as well. Supported also with other renewables including solar and wind, the sectoral integration can change the energy policy from centralized power plants for very large areas to self-sufficient small regions, thus saving power distribution losses. In addition, this concept would be beneficial for the countries with intensive biomass sectors by fulfilling food and energy need simultaneously and reducing the import need in the chemical industry.
The transition to biorefinery would cause drastic changes in the industrial ecology and public behaviour. The sociatel acceptance for such a transition is a critical aspect. This perspective interprates the meaning of operational environment (e.g., current legislation, political situation and expected future development) for biorefineries. It also helps to understand the problem about decision-making on sustainability is the complexity of the human and natural systems involve.Current institutions shaping technological innovation are often not aligned toward the goals of sustainable development. Considering this issue, the education programmes could also be updated in accordance with sustainable development. For instance, sustainability science courses help to promote solution-oriented thinking about the demand of sustainable development. In addition, engineering design courses can include environmental impacts as the evaluation criteria as well as profitability, product quality and safety. The environmental impact assessment methods should also be upgraded in accordance with the biorefinery supply chains.
Period31 Oct 2019
Event titleInternational Seminar "Towards Sustainable Tomorrows: From Sound Concepts to Sound Practice": null
Event typeSeminar
Conference number1
LocationEspoo, Finland
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Biomass conversion, biorefinery, sustainability, sectoral integration