Bridging the gap between phytoremediation solutions on Growing energy crOps on contaminated LanDs and clean biofuel production - GOLD

Project Description

GOLD project aims to produce clean low Indirect Land Use Change biofuels by growing selected high-yielding lignocellulosic crops on contaminated land, and, in long-term, to return the polluted lands back to the agricultural production. This research project is mainly built on three pillars.

On the first pillar the optimization of selected high-yielding lignocellulosic energy crops (miscanthus, switchgrass, biomass sorghum, industrial hemp) for phytoremediation purposes will be addressed in two continents: in Europe (Greece, Italy, France, Poland) and in Asia (India and China). Pilot small-scale field trials will be established having dual-fold purposes: the application of the best-performing management practices for phytoremediation, and the feedstock production that will feed the conversion processes. The use of biomass harvested from existing contaminated sites -and not artificially contaminated- is crucial for gaining reliable results from the conversion methods.

On the second pillar, the biofuel production will be accomplished by two thermochemical conversion routes. In the first route, the contaminated feedstock will be pre-treated (by Torwash, torrefaction or low-temperature pyrolysis) and gasified at high temperatures securing the ash heavy metals in a condensed vitrified slag. The produced syngas, after cleaning, will subsequently be fermented to final liquid biofuels. The second route consists of a pyrolysis-based solution with the subsequent upgrade of the pyrolysis products to refinery-compatible intermediates and Fisher-Tropsch-fuels. In both routes the produced liquid biofuels will be clean and the contaminants will be collected in concentrated form.

In the third pillar, an integrated sustainability assessment will be carried out and a specific model will be developed for selected value-chains, so as to bridge the gap between phytoremediation strategies and clean biofuel production. Mapping in details the contaminated sites and analyzing the decontamination strategies in terms of further replication at EU level. Furthermore, best practices and recommendations for combining phytoremediation with clean low ILUC biofuels will be developed, taking into consideration both environmental and socio-economic gains and bringing GOLD closer to its ambition and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).