EBRI unveils new facilities to enhance world-class bioenergy research activity

The European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) unveiled brand new facilities today (Monday 28 October), which will allow them to expand their world-class bioenergy research and knowledge transfer activity.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham officially opened EBRI’s new ‘home’ at Aston University and spoke at the opening event, alongside Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Julia King and EBRI Director Professor Andreas Hornung.

The new £16.5m development, funded jointly by the University and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is complete with six research suites, laboratories and technology demonstration facilities. It also houses the only Pyroformer™/Gasifier bioenergy power plant currently up-and-running in the UK, which will provide power, heat and cooling to the building as well as part of the Aston University campus.

The Pyroformer™ is a groundbreaking bioenergy solution developed by Professor Andreas Hornung of EBRI, which uses multiple waste sources to generate cost-effective heat and power. Unlike other bioenergy plants, the Pyroformer™ has no negative environmental or food security impacts. It uses multiple waste sources, therefore does not require the destruction of rainforests or the use of agricultural land for the growth of specialist bioenergy crops. In fact biochar – one of its by-products – can even be used as a fertiliser to increase crop yields.

Professor Dame Julia King, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, said: “We are extremely proud that this magnificent building, teeming with world leading academic and scientific knowledge, is now officially open as part of the University campus.”

In the UK we have a legally binding commitment to cut carbon emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Aston University’s strong commitment to cutting emissions is not only evident through our operations but is also reflected in our academic offerings.  However, we are aware that the UK will not meet its targets – and at an affordable cost – without new technologies and that is why we established our European Bioenergy Research Institute.

“We believe that we can take waste such as sewage sludge, industrial waste, green waste from our parks and gardens, and even autumnal leaf fall, and turn it into a power source that by 2050 could be a thermal ring of mini bioenergy power plants around Birmingham. EBRI is therefore a critical component in enabling the UK to become more energy efficient, and to reduce our current reliance on fossil fuels, imports, and volatile energy markets.”

Professor Andreas Hornung, Director of the European Bioenergy Research Institute, said: “We are delighted that our new facilities are now up-and-running and that we have a functioning Pyroformer™ demonstration power plant installed on site.

“This new building will significantly increase the capacity of our dedicated teams to produce world-class research and knowledge transfer in all aspects of bioenergy and technology development. We can also now provide even more collaboration opportunities for businesses to run trials and tests, evaluate waste sources and consider combinations of bioenergy processes prior to investment.”

EBRI at Aston University was established in 2008 and bioenergy research has been taking place at the University from as early as 1978. EBRI staff conduct research into all aspects of bioenergy, ranging from fundamental research through development, to deployment of innovative technologies, in collaboration with industry.

EBRI works with regional, national and international businesses and organisations to help them realise opportunities from the high growth bioenergy sector. EBRI has ERDF funding to provide free support, advice and consultancy to West Midlands businesses.