A research and development strategy is proposed for fundamental technologies of growing and utilizing biomass, which are essential to reduce greenhouse gas emission and fossil fuel consumption in the future.
Biomass is hydrocarbons accumulated in plants and animals, mainly composed of carbon solidified by solar energy. In other words biomass is a form of solar energy fixed in living things. As long as reproduction is secured, it does not increase carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere, and is considered as carbon neutral. It is effective measure for reducing greenhouse gas emission as well as for saving fossil energy resources as long as the sun exists.
The energy potential of biomass in year 2050 is estimated as some half of the total primary energy consumption of the world in year 2000. Expectancy for it is high. The United States, European countries, and some of the other nations are moving toward higher utilization of biomass. However, both the diffusion and energy efficiency of biomass energy systems are low, and the potential has not been fully exploited. In Japan, especially, though biomass energy potential accounts for several percent of the primary energy consumption, only a little over 1% has been actually utilized so far.
Japan is in serious need for utilization of biomass as a heavy importing country, who depends highly on foreign natural resources. Yet, the action for biomass utilization is far behind these countries, mainly due to small domestic potential of biomass supply and high cost to produce and collect biomass. It is essential, in order to cope with the worldwide shift toward biomass energy, to form a strategy in view of utilization of overseas biomass and to promote research and development of advanced technology.
A strategic workshop for projecting future science and technology titled “- R&D subjects for spreading and advancing biomass energy systems -” has been held to elucidate the contribution of biomass energy to cutting greenhouse gas emission and saving fossil energy consumption, and measures to maximize it.
Three objectives; 1. to increase growth rate of biomass, 2. to diff use the biomass energy system, 3.to improve the energy efficiency in biomass energy systems, have been set. With attendees from industrial, academic, and governmental organizations, who have specialty in systems technology, nurturing or conversion of biomass, waste processing and so on, the discussion has been conducted for two days. On the first day, the issues relevant to the systems technology have been discussed. The second day, which was two weeks later, was planned for debates on element technologies in the system. Since it was difficult to examine the importance or priority of R&D subject without considering influences of social, economic, and political conditions, these conditions as well as technologies were taken into the scope of the workshop.
The workshop has produced a long term national vision in which;
Biomass sector is to be established as a key industry based on market principle, and
The development and resource security in Asia are to be secured through internationally well balanced utilization of biomass in the region.
The scenarios, action items, and R&D subjects to bring about the vision have been proposed as well, out of which fundamental R&D subjects for build a basis to increase biomass energy contribution dramatically have been extracted, and the following target has been established:
To develop fundamental technologies for increasing growth of biomass, improving energy efficiency and spreading its use, which are required for biomass energy to contribute in reduction of greenhouse gas emission and fossil fuel consumption, and to form a viable key industry for supply and use of biomass. As more specific examples, the following technologies are aimed at;
(1)Breed improvement technology to increase growth rate of energy crops, or to raise them in unsuitable land for cultivation such as desert or coastal lagoon,
(a)Elucidation and manipulation technology of genes related to growth rate or tolerance to environment
(2)High efficiency production technology of liquid fuel from materials difficult to decompose such as cellulose or lignin,
(a)Biochemical conversion technology to convert cellulose to sugar, and high activity enzyme
(b)Thermochemical technology to control yield composition, and to refine product gas
(3)Labor-saving technology for biomass energy system,
(a)Monitoring and tracing technology for cultivation and collection of biomass
(4)Durability improvement technology.
(a)Corrosion resistant material, technology for prevention of stain deposition and/or self cleaning