Bioenergy - Forskarskola energisystem

In this project we investigated the importance of biomass in a long-term sustainable energy system. Focus was on forest-based biorefineries and on the transition to a bio-based economy, and on developing a knowledge and model framework related to forest biomass and the implementation of biorefineries.

The project was structured around three interrelated PhD projects:

  1. Technologies and value chains (Johan Ahlström, Energy Technology, Chalmers)
  2. Localization and industrial change (Jonas Zetterholm, Energy Engineering, Luleå University of Technology)
  3. Markets and price determination (Elina Bryngemark, Economics, Luleå University of Technology)

A number of key joint issues and challenges were in focus for the three PhD projects, in particular related to how emerging biorefinery concepts can be evaluated at an early stage (ex-ante) regarding e.g. technology choice, feedstocks, process integration and geographic aspects, and how different scientific approaches, methods and models can be combined.

Aim of the project

The objectives were to: (1) contribute to the provision of skills and the development of systems analysis research in Sweden and (2) contribute with new knowledge to the sustainable transformation of the Swedish energy system.

Project results

This interdisciplinary doctoral project within Forskarskola Energisystem (Graduate School in Energy Systems) has applied a holistic approach to study the importance of and the possibilities for a sustainable transition of the energy system towards an increased share of bioenergy, in the development towards a bio-based economy. The focus has been on biorefineries based on forest feedstocks, for the production of various energy carriers with the potential to contribute to the defossilisation of the energy system. Within the project, a knowledge and model framework has been constructed that enables both advanced systems analysis related to Sweden’s forest-based raw materials and their role in a sustainable energy system, and analysis of the transition of the process industry to future biorefineries. In the project, we have highlighted various system aspects related to the development of and investments in biorefineries, how this can be accomplished, what effects large-scale implementation of biorefineries or other advanced uses of forest biomass would have on biomass markets and industrial structure in Sweden, and which policy instruments that can be relevant. The research questions have had their starting point in Sweden and Swedish conditions, but with a clear international perspective both on resources and technologies, and on policy and market aspects.

From a market point of view, the results illustrate the importance of considering market responses in the process of energy and environmental policy development and implementation. For instance, the forest industry sector and the bioenergy sector are closely interlinked and can either make or break one another, depending on the policy design. The results also show that for an increased demand of bioenergy, an industrial transformation is to be expected, as well as increased roundwood harvest. At the same time, policies aiming to increase the use and production of environmentally friendly fuels may create undesirable lock-in-effects with technologies that depend on the use of long term unsustainable feedstocks. From a technology and value chain point of view, the results show that integration with existing industry and existing supply chains for forest biomass can certainly both increase the energy efficiency and improve the economic performance, but that the energy-optimal integration does not always result in the lowest production costs.

By applying a soft-linking method-combining model and analysis framework, we have also highlighted and expanded on the complexity of how system costs for large-scale implementation of forest-based biorefineries are composed. The framework can be used to, for example, identify not only the policy support that would be needed to enable a first profitable biorefinery facility, but also the support that would be required to maintain a large production of, e.g., forest-based biofuels. The results from the application of the framework also shed light on the complexity of the relationship between the perspective of facility owners on the one hand, and policy makers on the other. The solutions that have the lowest cost to a plant owner are not necessarily the same as those that would be preferred by a decision maker at the policy level, due to the existence of hidden indirect costs.

Read Final Report here


Doctoral thesis

Jonas Zetterholm (2021) Evaluation of emerging forest-industry integrated biorefineries - Exploring strategies for robust performance in face of future uncertainties.

Elina Bryngemark (2021) The Economics of Biofuel Development: Policy Incentives and Market Impacts

Johan Ahlström (2020) Shaping Future Opportunities for Biomass Gasification - The Role of Integration.

Academic thesis

Bryngemark E (2019). The Competition for Forest Raw Materials in the Presence of Increased Bioenergy Demand. Licentiate thesis, LTU.

Zetterholm (2018). Forest based biorefinery supply chains - Identification and evaluation of economic, CO2, and resource efficiency. Licentiate thesis, LTU.

Ahlström J (2018). Cost-Effective Pathways for Gasification-Based Production of Biofuels. Licentiate thesis, Chalmers.

Scientific publication

Ahlström JM, Alamia A, Larsson A, Breitholtz C, Harvey S, Thunman H. Bark as feedstock for dual fluidized bed gasifiers-Operability, efficiency, and economics. International Journal of Energy Research 2019;43:1171–90.

Ahlström JM, Harvey S, Papadokonstantakis S. Forest residues gasification integrated with electrolysis for production of SNG – modelling and assessment. Comput. Aided Chem. Eng., 2018, p. 109–14.

Ahlström JM, Pettersson K, Wetterlund E, Harvey S. Value chains for integrated production of liquefied bio-SNG at sawmill sites – Techno-economic and carbon footprint evaluation. Applied Energy 2017;206:1590–608.

Ahlström JM, Walter V, Göransson L, Papadokonstantakis S. The role of biomass gasification in the future flexible power system – BECCS or CCU? Inskickad för publiering i Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 2021.

Ahlström JM, Zetterholm J, Pettersson K, Harvey S, Wetterlund E. Economic potential for substitution of fossil fuels with liquefied biomethane in Swedish iron and steel industry – Synergy and competition with other sectors. Energy Conversion and Management 2020;209:112641.

Bryngemark E. Bioenergy versus forest conservation: a partial equilibrium analysis of the Swedish forest raw materials market. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 2020;35:367–82.

Bryngemark E. Second generation biofuels and the competition for forest raw materials: A partial equilibrium analysis of Sweden. Forest Policy and Economics 2019b;109:102022.

Bryngemark E, Söderholm P. Do green industrial policies promote domestic production of biofuels? A panel data analysis of OECD countries. Manuskript 2021.

Bryngemark E, Söderholm P, Thörn M. Green Public Procurement in Swedish Municipalities - An Econometric Analysis based on Survey Data. Manuskript 2021.

Zetterholm J, Ahlström J, Bryngemark E. Large-scale introduction of forest-based biorefineries: Actor perspectives and the impacts of a dynamic biomass market. Biomass and Bioenergy 2020a;142:105782.

Zetterholm J, Bryngemark E, Ahlström J, Söderholm P, Harvey S, Wetterlund E. Economic Evaluation of Large-Scale Biorefinery Deployment: A Framework Integrating Dynamic Biomass Market and Techno-Economic Models. Sustainability 2020b;12:7126.  

Zetterholm J, Mossberg J, Jafri Y, Wetterlund E. “We need stable, long-term policy support!” – evaluating the economic rationale behind the prevalent investor lament. Manuskript 2021.

Zetterholm J, Pettersson K, Leduc S, Mesfun S, Lundgren J, Wetterlund E. Resource efficiency or economy of scale: Biorefinery supply chain configurations for co-gasification of black liquor and pyrolysis liquids. Applied Energy 2018a;230:912–24.

Zetterholm J, Wetterlund E, Pettersson K, Lundgren J. Evaluation of value chain configurations for fast pyrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass - Integration, feedstock, and product choice. Energy 2018b;144:564–75. 


People in the project

Head of Research

Elisabeth Wetterlund, Associated Professor, Luleå University of Technology

Project participants

  • Elina Bryngemark, Luleå University of Technology
  • Johan Ahlström, Chalmers
  • Jonas Zetterholm, Luleå University of Technology
  • Patrik Söderholm, Luleå University of Technology
  • Elisabeth Wetterlund, Luleå University of Technology
  • Joakim Lundgren, Luleå University of Technology
  • Simon Harvey, Chalmers
  • Karin Pettersson, RISE

Project partners

  • Luleå University of Technology
  • Chalmers
  • RISE


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