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A glance towards 2030

Venice Symposium, the 6th International Symposium on Energy from Biomass and Waste, held from November 14th to 17th 2016 in the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista in Venice, was organized with the scientific support of eight Universities from four different continents (including the Universities of Padova and Trento from Italy), and with the technical support of Eurowaste srl.

The conference provided an opportunity to discuss the implications on the sector of energy from biomass and waste stemming from ambitious projects bridging the next decade. The symposium was characterized largely by the transfer of results emerging from daily sessions to the operators in the field, thanks to the organizational collaboration of the Association of Engineers of the Province of Venice and of the International Waste Working Group.

Potential new options

In the field of thermochemical processes, direct combustion was a key contender, as highlighted by the scenario depicted by the presentations. A series of innovations were however revealed due to the imminent start up of operations in contexts other than those of recent application: Japan is indicated as the reference field for gasification and pyrolysis, although the construction of gasifier plants is also on a rise elsewhere. In addition, the reason underlying the improvement manifested by a series of environmental parameters following use of a combination of gasification and combustion processes and the efficacy demonstrated in terms of conversion of the energy present in waste into electric power was highlighted. By the year 2030 it is assumed that the thermochemical process sector will have evolved into an increasingly multi-faceted sector. Following on from the previous edition, the number of papers presented on anaerobic digestion was particularly high. All aspects of the process were analyzed: from pretreatment of the input, to management of the anaerobic reactor, treatment of the biogas produced and management of the digestate. From a technical point of view, the production of biomethane (equivalent to mainline gas) from generated biogas is a fully viable option. Potential difficulties encountered in the implementation of this process will likely be due to suboptimal conditions. The presence at the symposium of authors from countries in which anaerobic digestion is not supported by government incentives provides hope that the approach implemented by the European Union may continue to thrive should these incentives not be renewed in future years.

Roads on the horizon 

Research in the energy sector seems to afford interesting perspectives over a 10-15 year period. As an example, the symposium provided ample opportunities to illustrate the non-conventional evolution of use of microorganisms to produce energy. One of the most interesting aspects related to advancements in the field in terms of volumetric capacity of reactors, previously limited by the need to contain the concentration of microorganisms due to management issues. Of particular interest is the application of non-thermal plasma to particular gas flows that may be generated in biological treatment plants.
A transversal interpretation of the data presented was constituted by the financial commitments made in the field of the activities illustrated. On an international level the situation is rather patchy, although it is of interest to note how a series of keynote projects have been funded on a national scale in some emerging countries, including China.
The 6th edition of the Symposium marked the surpassing of the tenth year of this biannual event. This led us to a useful (and positive) reflection of the dynamics underlying the energy from biomass and waste sector. Compared to a decade ago, process management in particular has been developed and refined.
Increased emphasis has been placed on the efforts undertaken to characterize the input for energy processes (particularly the characterization of residual municipal waste downstream of the separate collection process). 
In the light of climate change, increasing attention has been focused on the role of the energy from biomass and waste sector.

 

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