EU Project OPTFUEL "Optimized Fuels for Sustainable Transport"

    - demonstration und optimisation of the energy wood value chain -


    Agricultural energy wood for 2nd generation biofuels

    The sustainable supply with large volumes of woody biomass for European industrial customers is a core element of the project “OPTFUEL”, which was promoted by the EU. The aim of the OPTFUEL-project was to demonstrate the whole BTL (Biomass to Liquids) value chain - from the feedstock-supply to fuel-tests in engines. As traditional European woody biomass potentials are almost completely in utilisation, short rotation coppice (SRC) plantations have been perceived as a crucial component of a sustainable biomass sourcing strategy.

    Objectives of energy wood workpackages

    • Increase the interest of farmers in growing SRC in target regions
    • Develop and implement a long term cooperation model between biomass producer and off-taker
    • Identify efficient planting, management and harvesting techniques for commercial SRC projects
    • Test different fast growing tree species and varieties regarding yield potential, resilience and site specific requirements
    • Support SRC related research activities of universities and institutes
    • Develop, implement and assess ecological enhanced SRC plantations in cooperation with ecological NGOs
    • Calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of SRC energy wood production


    Establishment of 230 ha SRC plantations in 5 regions

    Roughly 230 ha SRC plantations have been established under the OPTFUEL project between 2009 and 2011 in 5 target regions in Germany and Poland. Due to the attractive cooperation concept developed under OPTFUEL the goal of 200 ha has been exceeded by 15%. The cooperation concept foresees a participation of the biomass off-taker in the establishment costs and yield risks of the plantation. In return, the off-taker benefits from a secure supply over the life time of plantation and moderate feedstock costs.

    More than 40 different poplar and willow varieties as well as small plots of black locust, alder, eucalyptus and other tree species have been planted. Yield measurements of several clones on different sites were performed under scientific standards. Seven different planting technologies have been tested and evaluated. The most efficient planting technology has been further optimized. Different concepts and technologies for weed control (chemical & mechanical) have been executed and evaluated under commercial scale conditions.

    Lignovis GmbH to continue energy wood activities

    After the management-buy-out of CHOREN’s biomass activities end of 2011 Lignovis continued the project and expanded the SRC specific project scope beyond BTL, including other bioenergy applications. This involved the development of SRC sourcing concepts specifically for heat and power applications.

    Major Results

    • An effective regulation of bad weeds in the first vegetation period is a basic requirement for high yields and economically successful plantations.
    • The main barriers for a wider market introduction of SRC are the high costs for the establishment, the long term SRC plantation life time and today’s high SRC harvesting costs.
    • SRC is suitable for marginal arable sites, especially when a connection to ground water is given. Average soil qualities also offer economically successful and competitive SRC production compared to annual energy crops (biogas-maize, biodiesel-canola, grain for ethanol)
    • At irregular precipitation and drought, SRC offers significantly lower risk of crop shortfall compared to annual crops. Commercial SRC clones are offering considerable differences in case of yield potential, ability for different sites and sensitiveness to several risks and damages.
    • The combination of different clones of willow and poplar and other species in one plantation has an increasing effect on biodiversity and resistance to different factors of damage.
    • To increase the effectiveness of SRC technology for cultivation and harvesting a “critical” minimum volume of SRC plantations in a region is necessary.
    • Cooperation models between SRC biomass users and producers decrease investment risk on both sides.
    • SRC plantations offer a solid source of income for agriculture and excellent security of supply from a sustainable biomass source for the bioenergy industry.
    • Compared to other bioenergy value chains SRC for heat & power production offers a considerably higher CO2 reduction potential at lower cost.