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Dynamic sustainability assessment tool for the case studies of biorefinery supply chains from agricultural wastes

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SABIR (Dynamic sustainability assessment tool for the case studies of biorefinery supply chains from agricultural wastes)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2018-06-01 do 2020-05-31

Since the pioneering work of D. Meadows, there is continuous refining and development of novel methodologies in the field of sustainability. Sustainability remains a disputable topic, even when researchers agree on one common definition of sustainability since different sustainability aspects can be evaluated differently.

The SABIR project presents a novel, dynamic sustainability assessment tool. This tool combines temporal soil carbon modelling and greenhouse gas modelling with system dynamics models. The case studies of green biorefineries and the agriculture sector in Denmark and Latvia are used to approbate this tool.

Agriculture is the primary supply of nutrition and bioenergy and a substantial contributor to the bioeconomy. Yet, agriculture is also linked with environmental, economic, and social aspects of climate change. Therefore, climate change and agriculture are linked by complex relations, which can be difficult to define or measure. Biorefinery case studies are chosen because currently, most of the energy carriers and raw materials are supplied using non-renewable sources. At the same time, just to start using renewables instead does not mean to have sustainable systems per se. We need systems that can transform local resources efficiently, provide work-spaces and operate economically justified. Here biorefinery is viewed as a concept for sustainable, large-scale production of high added value bio-based products and fuels. Nevertheless, the overall environmental, economic and social consequences of implementing such biorefinery systems are poorly understood.

Therefore, SABIR project will aim to give two major benefits. Firstly, to present novel sustainability assessment tool by the introduction of feedback loops and, secondly, to advance studies on biorefinery concept, by outlining possible impacts and solutions.

To achieve the project’s aim six objectives are fulfilled: 1) a reference system is defined, 2) a dynamic sustainability assessment tool for the case studies is developed, 3) the developed tool is validated, 4) sensitivity analysis for the developed tool is carried out, 5) policy scenario assessment is done the developed tool and recommendations for involved stakeholders are developed, and 6) knowledge transfer and training is carried out.
This project will abide by the Horizon 2020 Open Access policy, to have a higher knowledge transfer of results. All data, dissemination and exploitation activities will be publically available and open access. Findings of the project will be presented at International Conference on Applied Energy and International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software Modelling for Sustainable Food-Energy-Water Systems; and will be published in International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment and Energy Policy. Findings of the project will be presented in one seminar for policymakers and industry. Results will be disseminated also to the general public by press releases in the homepage of the Department of Agroecology at agro.au.dk and my posts in professional web sites at linkedin.com/in/leldetimma and researchgate.net/profile/Lelde_Timma.

Target groups for the exploitation of the results include academia, policymakers and industry, especially those dealing with the development of energy technologies and high added value bio-based products. Each group will be able to exploit results from different purposes. Academia will be able to use results for further research and education of students, public sector for future policymaking, and the private sector for future commercialization of biorefineries and efficient production of competitive, high added value bio-based products. Moreover, by the end of the project, PowerSim and SimaPro software developers will be contacted where the possibilities to integrate both methods (life cycle sustainability analysis and system dynamics) will be outlined.

Major activities carried out include scientific work, and knowledge transfer and training, including mentoring, project management, as well as communication and dissemination activities in press releases, scientific conferences, public events and publications in scientific journals and other media.

Major results obtained include numerous scientific publication, participation in scientific events and obtaining the funding for further research.
The novelty of this project is to convert current state-of-art sustainability assessment tools from static to dynamic. Feedback information about the stage of one impact category will be made available to other impact categories. The novelty will include that feedback mechanism will be studied all together, while interacting with the system. For example, the case study for sustainability analysis of Danish agriculture and green biorefineries supply chains in Denmark is used. Thus, the model covers significant feed flows for animals and animal production, as well as limiting factors in the system, such as ecosystem’s carrying capacity, total available land area, normative regulations, and time delays in decision-making.

The results demonstrate the difference in obtained results between using constant and temporal modelling values, thus showing the application for the developed dynamic sustainability assessment tool. It can be concluded that this dynamic sustainability assessment tool shows a more precise and less optimistic projection of future development than the assessment using constant modelling values only. Therefore, the use of the temporal aspects in the impact assessment should be further developed and included in sustainability assessments to yield results with the representation of processes occurring in natural ecosystems.

In this project, the cooperation between academia, policymakers and industry is fulfilled throughout the project via expert interviews and scientific events. This ensures higher exploitation potential since the results obtained in this project will have practical applicability and will be of high relevance and interest from parties outside academia.

Receiving this advanced training has greatly improved my future career as an independent researcher since I am capable of combining knowledge on various types of methodologies to analyze numerous possible development pathways of energy systems. Obtained knowledge after the project is a unique advantage since such study has not been carried out so far. Moreover, due to my previous education and received training during this project, I am one of a few scientists capable after the fellowship to transfer approbated methodology on other types of energy systems, thus having the advantage for further career development within the circular economy and renewable energy. Received and leveraged transferable skills have greatly benefited me after the fellowship for the attraction of further funding and continuation of the scientific work in the field of the energy system as the researcher in the University of Latvia and as the expert in the European Commission.
Representation of a) the effect of innovation (b) the exploitation of the ecosystem