Germany's education and research ministry BMBF provides €12M for H2Wood–BlackForest: Biohydrogen made of wood projects; Fraunhofer IGB is developing biotechnological process to produce climate-neutral bio-hydrogen, bio-based products from wood waste

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Germany , April 19, 2022 (press release) –

H2Wood – BlackForest: Biohydrogen made of wood
 
A climate-neutral circular economy based on wood is the goal of the joint project »H2Wood – BlackForest«, which is funded by the BMBF with 12 million euros. For this purpose, Fraunhofer IGB is developing a biotechnological process to produce hydrogen and bio-based co-products from wood waste. At the project partner Campus Schwarzwald in Freudenstadt, the process will be demonstrated in a specially designed system. In order to show how the renewable energy source can be used by local companies and energy suppliers, Fraunhofer IPA and the University of Stuttgart are creating a hydrogen roadmap for the Black Forest region in the project.


© Leins Aktenvernichtungs GmbH / Jochen Weiblen
In the H2Wood – BlackForest project, biohydrogen and bio-based co-products are to be produced from wood waste.
Aus Holzabfällen sollen im Projekt H2Wood – BlackForest Biowasserstoff und biobasierte Koppelprodukte entstehen.
© Leins Aktenvernichtungs GmbH/Jochen Weiblen
Waste wood from the outdoor area treated with wood preservatives must currently be incinerated in approved large-scale power plants.


Wood is the most important economic asset of the Black Forest. During the processing into furniture and building materials, but also during the demolition of buildings, considerable regional amounts of wood waste are generated. These are currently disposed of in a cost-intensive manner and used in wood incineration plants at best for energy purposes.

On the other hand, "green" hydrogen (H2), which is produced by electrolysis of water with renewable energies, as a key element of the energy transition. The demand for regeneratively produced hydrogen for a climate-friendly economy in industry, transport and heat supply is enormous. Germany and Europe therefore rely primarily on hydrogen imports from southern countries with sufficient solar radiation all year round.

Since August 2021, the Black Forest region has been embarking on a new path that combines the use of regional wood waste with the production of renewable hydrogen. "Following the bioeconomy approach, we want to use biotechnological processes to produce climate-neutral biohydrogen as well as additional usable substances such as carotenoids or proteins from waste wood and wood waste," explains Dr. Ursula Schließmann from the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, which is responsible for the joint project "H2Wood – BlackForest«. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the project on the circular economy of regional resources in the Black Forest region with around 12 million euros until mid-2024. In addition to Fraunhofer IGB, partners in the research network are the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, the Institute for Industrial Manufacturing and Factory Operation IFF of the University of Stuttgart and the Center for Digitization, Leadership and Sustainability Schwarzwald gGmbH (Campus Schwarzwald).

 

Cascade use of wood enables climate neutrality
»The aim of the initiative is to use a comprehensive concept for a sustainable and innovative supply of the Black Forest with biohydrogen CO2emissions and support the region in achieving its climate goals," explains Stefan Bogenrieder, Managing Director of Campus Schwarzwald. Carbon dioxide is saved in two ways: On the one hand, regenerative biohydrogen replaces previous fossil fuels, and on the other hand, residual and waste wood will not only supply hydrogen. The new biotechnological approach links the energy recovery of wood waste into hydrogen with material use. »The CO released from the wood2 is bound in the form of carbon-based by-products and thus led back into the natural carbon cycle," explains environmental expert Schließmann.

 

A hydrogen roadmap for the Black Forest region
What quantities of residual and waste wood are produced in the wood-processing industry and the municipalities at all, how much hydrogen could be produced from it and how great would the savings potential for CO be2Emissions? The project team gets to the bottom of these questions in potential analyses. At the same time, the partners are investigating how the hydrogen produced can best be stored, transported and used. Hydrogen is not only a flexible energy storage system, but can also be used as a fuel for vehicles, fuel for blast furnaces and fuel cells, and as a raw material for numerous industrial processes and chemical derivatives.

"To this end, we analyze and evaluate the energy consumption of industry, households as well as local and long-distance transport and derive potentials for decentralized hydrogen production and use within the Black Forest region," says Dr. Erwin Groß from Fraunhofer IPA. "We summarize the results of all surveys and calculations in a hydrogen roadmap for the Black Forest region," says Groß.

 

Process and demonstration plant for the production of biohydrogen
So far, there is no plant that produces biohydrogen on a larger scale. Fraunhofer IGB therefore develops the necessary processes and investigates them experimentally before they can be implemented in an integrated facility on the Black Forest campus in Freudenstadt. The first step and prerequisite for biotechnological conversion is the pre-treatment of waste and residual wood.

"We are facing quite a challenge here, because wood waste from house demolition, furniture construction and building material production, including chipboard or MDF boards, contain adhesives such as resins and phenols or paints. We first have to remove these chemical components so that the bacteria and microalgae, i.e. the actors in biotechnological hydrogen production, can do their job," explains Schließmann. In addition, the wood must still be broken down into its building blocks and the cellulose obtained must be split into individual sugar molecules, which serve as feed for the hydrogen-producing microorganisms.

For the biotechnological conversion of wood sugars, two fermentation processes are being established and linked together at Fraunhofer IGB. One relies on hydrogen-producing bacteria, which convert the sugars into CO2, organic acids and ethanol. The metabolic products of the bacteria represent the food for the microalgae. These synthesize carotenoids or proteins as by-products and also release hydrogen.

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