Miglioramento dell’utilizzo e digeribilità dei residui di coltivazione in relazione alla conversione in biocarburanti
The project, funded by the Italian Ministry for Agricultural, Food and Forestry policies, aims at the development of mixed food-energy supply chains by using tools and techniques from genetics, genomics, biochemistry and biotechnology.
The renewable energy source with highest potential in Italy is the biomass. Notwithstanding this fact, at present only 3% of the national energy demand is provided by this source. At present there are consistent efforts for the development of dedicated crops for biofuel conversion. However such approach requires that large crop areas are converted for the production of the new crops, which can lead to reduced production of food, increased food prices and influence negatively the rural economies, the agro-ecosystems and the rural landscape. The project BIOMASSVAL proposes a different approach based on the optimisation and valorisation of the agricultural residues of food crops. The scope is to create an added value for residual biomaterial resources, which at present find very limited uses. The project will develop the concept of Global Harvest Index, taking into account both the food use of the edible parts (fruits, grains) and non-food uses of the vegetative parts of a crop. The project considers species with large food uses in Italy (tomatoes, barley, wheat, vine), with the objective to optimise the existing supply chains rather than create new ones. The final objectives of the project are: • The identification of ideotypes of barley, wheat and tomato, which present optimal characteristics from an agro-energy point of view (e.g. an improved ratio between energy input and outputs). • The development of fermentative microorganisms and hydrolytic enzymes with improved characteristics for the production of biofuels. • The evaluation of bio-fuel residual products in their use as soil improvers or fertilisers. • Evaluation of the impacts biofuel production from agricultural residues on the agro-ecosystems. The project uses genetic, genomic, biochemical and biotechnological techniques and knowledge and covers all the bio-energy supply chain: from the cultivar selection up to their processing and bio-fuel production, as well as the re-use of residual materials as soil improvers or fertilisers. The project results will be used to identify and eliminate some critical points concerning the production of bio-fuels from residual biomass. Moreover the project will contribute for the development of mixed food-energy supply chains. A major activity of the project is the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) analysis, performed by LECOP-LEI laboratory, of an anaerobic digestion plant located in Emilia-Romagna (Italy) which uses both dedicated crops and agricultural residues for the production of biogas. The goal of the study is to evaluate the environmental performance of the production of electricity from biogas and to assess the hotspots of the whole production chain. The study, addressed to the managers and owners of the anaerobic digestion plant., cousl be used by the agricultural consortium to optimise the environmental and economic sustainability of its agro-industrial activities.
The LCA and Ecodesign laboratory has carried out an LCA analysis study of a biogas plant in Emilia-Romagna, which uses both dedicated crops and agricultural residues for the production of biogas. The goal of the study is to evaluate the environmental performance of the production of electricity from biogas and to assess the hotspots of the whole production chain. The study, showed that the main hotspots are biomass production and the use and management of digestate, mainly because of nitrogen and methane emissions. The study has been extended in order to evaluate: -The re-use of solid digestate as soil improver or energy source ('Energy and Environmental Analysis of a biogas plant in Emilia-Romagna', Bachellor Thesis of T. Gallingani, University of Bologna, 2013) -The use of biogas for the production of biomethane ('Assessment of environmental sustainability of an anaerobic digestion plant and its hypotethical conversion for biomethane production" ) , Degree Thesis of R. Cammardella, University of Bologna, 2014. The studies have resulted in three scientific pubblications: -"Comparative LCA analysis of electricity and biomethane production from biogas", in Proceedings of VII Italian LCA Network Conference, Florence, Italy 19-20 June 2014. -"Environmental Assessment of electricity production from an anaerobic digestion plant", in Proceedings of 19th SETAC LCA case Study Symposium, 11-13 Novembre 2013, Rome, Italy. -"Environmental Assessment of electricity production from an Italian anaerobic digestion plant", full paper for Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management and Accounting (under submission)
The project has contributed for the identification of ideotypes of barley, wheat and tomato, which present optimal characteristics from an agro-energy point of view. The development of novel fermentative microorganisms and hydrolytic enzymes with improved characteristics can contribute for more efficient utilisation of lignocellulosic biomass for the production of energy carriers. The LCA analyses carried within the project have been used as a base for the development of an innovative framework for sustainability analysis: the Life Cycle Sustainability Analysis.