EBRI bioenergy expert speaks at international event on sustainable agriculture

Patricia Thornley of EBRI speaking at the Brazilian Embassy, London
  • Professor Patricia Thornley spoke on the theme of transport and biofuels: the road to net-zero.
  • She proposed UK-Brazil research collaborations in biofuel systems could be particularly fruitful.
  • Talk was followed by visit to the University by head of biofuels at the Brazilian energy ministry.

Professor Patricia Thornley, director of the Energy and Bioproducts Institute (EBRI) at Aston University and the national Supergen Bioenergy Hub, has joined other British and Brazilian academics and sustainability experts at an international event in London to debate major issues related to agricultural production.

AgriSustainability Talks is a series of annual seminars organised by the Brazilian Embassy dedicated to agriculture and sustainability. Its aim is to contribute to the debate on the sustainability of agricultural production around the world, from the perspectives of producers, consumers and regulators.

This year’s event Sustainable Agriculture: what is already working? took place at the Embassy of Brazil in London on Wednesday 9 February.

The event allowed UK and Brazilian stakeholders to meet to discuss the importance of agri-sustainability in global food production and trade, focusing on key environmental, economic and social issues. The role of biofuels is key in the Brazilian economy and is the largest renewable energy sector in the UK.

Bioenergy expert Professor Thornley contributed to the discussion called transport and biofuels: the road to net-zero. The panel presented Brazil’s biofuel policies, the sustainability of ethanol agricultural production and the importance of biofuels in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Thornley presented work from Aston University and the Supergen Bioenergy Hub that showed the potential for significant carbon reductions around sugarcane to ethanol and other biofuel systems, and highlighted the importance of robust sustainability assessment criteria.

Managing land use and land-use change is a key component of the sustainability of such systems and she proposed that UK-Brazil research collaborations in that area could be particularly fruitful. The task of advancing and engineering state-of-the-art second-generation biofuel solutions was also a common goal for both countries with room for significant future research collaboration and transfer of learning across UK and Brazilian feedstocks. For example, while the UK has only recently introduced E10 petrol (containing up to 10% renewable ethanol), Brazil has had much higher ethanol blends for much longer, with many vehicles being able to run on 100% sugarcane-derived ethanol.

Professor Thornley said:

“Ensuring future biofuels are sustainable and actually deliver global carbon reductions is a key challenge on which the Supergen Bioenergy Hub is very firmly focused and EBRI/Aston researchers are leading the way on life cycle assessment and sustainability analyses that inform policy, support industrial strategy and deliver net carbon reductions.

“EBRI (Aston University) and the Supergen Bioenergy Hub therefore look forward to building closer research collaborations with our Brazilian counterparts as we move forward with common objectives.”

After the event in London, the head of biofuels at the Brazilian energy ministry, Pietro Mendes, travelled to Birmingham to visit EBRI’s facilities where he viewed Aston University’s bioenergy and biofuels research towards decarbonisation of the transport sector.