Resilient and Sustainable Biorenewable Systems Engineering Model (ReSBio)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Department of Chemical Engineering


Driven by a range of environmental challenges e.g. climate change, energy and material insecurity, a transition from the current fossil-based to a future bio-based economy is expected to evolve progressively and bring a post-petroleum era. The UK government has set out transition policies and strategies to adapt to and mitigate future environmental change and biorenewable carbon resources will play a significant role to meet UK 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets and support national adaptation efforts. The current EU bioeconomy is estimated to be worth around 2 trillion euros and a wide range of bio-products generated from biomass resources bring great potential. Unlike other renewable sources e.g. tidal or wind energy, biomass provides flexible options to overcome supply instability and un-predictability by deriving thermal and electrical energy on demand and offering potential for transport fuel or bio-chemical generation. Resource assessment shows that the UK biomass could meet almost half of domestic energy needs by 2050 without compromising land use. Biomass-derived value-added chemicals also represent a significant market; with current annual turnover of £60 billion, the UK chemical sector is described as the 'heart of the green economy development'. Such plethora of bio-renewable products can be converted efficiently and sustainably via well-designed integrated biorefinery systems. However, human use of and impacts on the biosphere are now exceeding the multiple environmental limits. Thus the future biorenewable deployment calls for an quantitative transition modelling tool bringing resilience and sustainability thinking approach in biorenewable system design to increase the overall capacity for tackling environmental stresses or socio-economic changes over the coming decades.
This project aims to develop an open-source biorenewable system model from user-perspectives and provide insights into sustainable design of the future biorenewable systems, which est adapt to and mitigate future changes, contribute to UK sustainability and resilience agenda and support bioeconomy evolution. Under ReSBio, seven research streams are organized in work packages (WP) that run in parallel.

WP1 will engage policy-makers, industrial stakeholders, scientists and engineers to scope the model context and objectives under UK sustainability and resilience context and define the model functions, indicators, boundaries, and case studies from user perspectives.
Building on WP1 model functional specifications, WP2 focuses on the open-source model development with the user-oriented architecture and integrating sustainability evaluation, biogeochemistry models and optimisation model.
WP3 expands the WP2 work and highlights the biomass resource modelling and agro-ecosystem C/N cycle simulation by building empirical database and re-parameterising the plant growth sub-model.
WP4 focuses on the environmental and economic performance evaluation of the promising technologies and the biorefinery system integration configurations.
WP5 aims to explore strategic design of representative UK case studies over multiple time periods under future environmental changes and demographic and economic trends.
WP6 will adapt and apply the developed model in representative overseas case studies which are of relevance to the UK.
To ensure ReSBio impacts, WP7 is dedicated to research output synthesis and project dissemination.

ReSBio will help to understand the research merit of biomass and conversion technologies for UK biorenewable value chains under future changes and identify the sustainable and resilient design for UK biorenewables systems over next decades. ReSBio will generate new insights into the biorenewable potential in future UK infrastructure transition strategies and bio-economy.

Planned Impact

The main beneficiaries of knowledge arising from the project 'ReSBio' are anticipated to be the UK government and policy-makers (e.g. Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)), RCUK bodies (e.g. EPSRC, UKERC), UK business stakeholders and networks on biorenewables and energy-water-waste infrastructure (e.g. Energy Futures Lab, NNFCC, The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), Biorenewable Development Centre (BDC), SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub), UK academic communities and international policy-makers, organisations and stakeholders. They will benefit from the proposed user-oriented biorenewable modelling research by being engaged throughout the model scoping, development, application and dissemination.
The proposed research will contribute to the future UK economic competitiveness and impact sustainability and resilience agenda by informing the decision-makers on strategic design of biorenewable systems at national/regional/corporate levels. The integrated model and generated insights will highlight the opportunities for economic benefits (e.g. cost-optimal solutions with improved resource efficiency) and pave the way for biorenewable sectors, best supporting UK bio-economy and mitigating future demographic and environmental changes. ReSBio will have significant societal impacts by advancing UK innovation and development of biorenewables, which will help to enhance the UK resilience to resource and energy insecurity and enable the UK to step forward towards 2050 GHG reduction targets.
ReSBio research will effectively inform UK government and stakeholders by identifying potential pathways to a sustainable biorenewable future. Firstly, user-oriented modelling approach will ensure model functionality, objectives, architecture to be developed from user perspectives and system indicators, model boundary and case studies to be identified and explored in line with sustainability and resilience agenda at national/corporate levels. The developed open-source model will enable decision-makers to engage better in model application to problem-solving and system-wide design. Secondly, ReSBio concerns the whole biorenewable sector and covers a wide range of feedstock and technologies thus the model will generate holistic insights into biorenewable system design options and impact researchers working in these areas. Such holistic model-derived evidences can effectively inform policy-makers at various policy process stages (e.g. option identification, policy selection) and provide directions for future research. Thirdly, the integrated modelling platform will provide dynamic forecasting insights into the influences of future environmental change on biorenewable systems and optimise the future biorenewable-energy-water infrastructure transition strategies with changing environment and demographic/economic conditions. This will assist decision-makers with incentive programmes and environmentally resilient strategies for the bio-sectors. Finally, knowledge arising from representative biorenewable case studies will provide engaged stakeholders with valuable information on the commercialization feasibility and supply chain optimisation of advanced biorenewables at corporate level.
In addition, the society, policy-makers and stakeholders at EU and international levels will also benefit from the ReSBio research to be carried out in collaboration with project partners as well as their broader stakeholder networks. The integrated model will be adapted to problem-solving under different contexts to derive region-specific bio-renewable systems and the tailored solutions for representative case studies under investigation. Such adapted model with graphical user interfaces will allow for user-interactive configuration of road-mapping for future bio-sectors and inform the investment and policy strategies to be focused on promising systems projected.


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