BioSFerA project presented at ECOS 2021 Conference

CERTH team has successfully participated to the ECOS 2021 Conference presenting the paper ‘Aviation & maritime biofuels production via a combined thermochemical/biochemical pathway: A conceptual design and process simulation study’.  The presented paper contained a first orientation of the suggested concept from start-to-end, as developed within the first year of the project.

BioSFerA H2020, first year project results

BioSFerA project aims to develop a cost-effective production method of sustainable aviation and maritime fuels, by combining different technologies. Despite the Covid 19 restrictions, after one year since the beginning of the project, the first goals have been successfully achieved.

First of all CERTH carried out an assessment of the potential to replicate the BioSFerA concept across Europe at commercial scale. This assessment includes specific case studies in 4 European countries: Greece, Italy, Spain and Finland. In each country the consortium selected a location suitable to host a production plant with a 200 MWth capacity. Critical parameters for the selected region were the average feedstock cost and the suitable feedstock type. The assessment shows that even when calculating with the most conservative assumptions, it is possible to obtain biogenic waste feedstock for a maximum cost of 10€/MWh.

Secondly, together with the technology providers in the consortium, CERTH described a preliminary overall BioSFerA value chain. Process models were developed and various simulations with altering operational parameters were performed. The overall process can be separated in three distinct parts: the thermochemical part, the biotechnological part and the thermocatalytic part. Heat & mass balances were calculated and evaluated with a set of performance indicators.


VTT gasified five pelleted types of feedstock, i.e. forest residue, bark, straw, sunflower, olive pruning. The gasification tests confirmed that all the feedstock types may be used in the forthcoming pilot phase. Research also revealed that tar reforming is a prerequisite prior to syngas fermentation due to the significant presence of inhibiting components.


In parallel, the syngas fermentation to acetate has proceeded and five acetogenic strains in eight different media have been examined. Clostridia proliferate easily in YTF (fructose) medium and Moorella in TSB (Tryptic Soy Broth) medium. HCN, typically present in syngas from biogenic waste, may be an inhibitor of bacterial growth. However, all the selected strains became resistant to fairly high concentrations of HCN. C. autoethanogenum showed the highest consumption of CO & H2,  while M. thermoacetica had the best performance in terms of microbial growth and acetate concentration. Genes have been selected to decrease or knockout ethanol production. Currently CSIC & BBEPP are mainly working with Moorella, while protocols are being developed to transform the Clostridia and Moorella strains by electroporation. All the described activities are highly active and the experiments are in progress.


Concerning the acetate fermentation for the production of TAGs, seven strains of the oleaginous yeast Y. lipolytica were tested. All the experiments were performed in shake-flask culture, which caused a slow growth of the yeast due to critical drop of the pH in the medium. As a result, the experiments must be reproduced in bioreactors. The main fatty acids in the produced TAGs are palmitic, linoleic and oleic acids. Protocols are under development to improve the production of TAGs, by metabolic engineering in the wild type yeast strains W29 or YB-392.

Biosfera H2020, first project achievements

BioSFerA aims to develop a cost-effective interdisciplinary technology to produce sustainable aviation and maritime fuels. During the first months of activity, the consortium has proceeded with some preparatory activities including the elicitation of stakeholders and market needs, the definition of key performance indicators (KPIs) for the evaluation of the project, and the BioSFerA feedstock selection and characterization.  


Biosfera - Biofuel for Biotravel


The elicitation of stakeholders requirements aims to assess the potential replicability and the effectiveness of the project functionalities provided as well as to align them with the market needs in order to ensure a well-oriented project implementation. Thanks to this analysis, specifications and peculiarities that need to be met for each of the involved stakeholders (technology providers, feedstock suppliers, refineries, fuel traders, final end-users, research centers, policy makers) have been gathered, starting from the feedstock supply and conversion and ending to the targeted drop in biofuels for the aviation and maritime sector.

The selection of KPIs has been performed in order to assess the overall concept development in terms of a technical, economic, environmental and social perspective. In particular, 23 technical KPIs, 10 economic KPIs, 15 environmental KPIs and 12 social KPIs were elected.

Finally, the feedstock selection was based on the fulfillment of three main prerequisites: availability/sustainability (i.e. capacities for large scale applications), favorable technical characteristics for good performance at the integrated BioSFerA system and market competitiveness. The selected BioSFerA feedstock inventory includes agricultural (prunings, straw), forestry (logging) and industrial (wood) residues as well as airports/ports derived biogenic wastes. Based on this selection but also on previous successfully tested similar feedstock, bench-scale gasification tests have started.

In the next months the consortium will finalize a case studies analysis aiming to assess the replicability of BioSFerA concept at commercial scale in terms of feedstock capacities. This will be achieved via the development of potential commercial BioSFerA scenarios across Europe involving the BioSFerA feedstock selection and current techno-economic data of the selected countries. Moreover, CERTH with the support of the project technology providers will define the main concept for the overall process for the conversion of the selected feedstock to drop-in biofuels. Process simulations to solve heat and mass balances for the overall process will be performed, acting as a benchmark for the following lab and pilot activities.

On the lab scale gasification and syngas fermentation tests for the biological production of syngas are ongoing.

Gasification of different biomass (sunflower husk and ash, Greek olive prunings pellets, straw) has been tried in a lab scale gasifier in order to collect information for the future scale up, together with evaluations about the contaminants influence on the process (e.g oxygen, nitrogen…). In the meantime, four acetogenic strains have been tested, two Clostridia and two Morella, using the water after reformer with good results (both showed to be able to growth in the media). A M. thermoacetica strain has been also tested with similar results. Further achievements will be available soon allowing to identify the most suitable Clostridium strain in terms of growth and productivity as well as the best cultivation media.

BioSFerA project H2020: activities and goals

The web kick-off meeting held on 30th April 2020, launched the activities of BioSFerA project (BIOfuels production from Syngas FERmentation for Aviation and maritime use), funded by European Unions’ Horizon 2020 research programme.



BioSFerA aims to develop cost-effective interdisciplinary technology to produce sustainable aviation and maritime fuels. Biogenic residues will be gasified, and the syngas will be fermented to produce bio-based triacylglycerides (TAGs). At the end of the project at least two barrels of Hydrotreated TAGs will be produced as next generation aviation and marine biofuels.

By exploiting the synergies between biological and thermochemical technologies, BioSFerA will achieve a total carbon utilization above 35% and a minimum selling price <0.7-0.8 €/l. BioSFerA aims to evolve the proposed technology from TRL3 to TRL5. In the TRL3 phase, extensive lab-scale tests will take place in order to optimize the process and increase its feedstock flexibility in terms of non-food biobased blends. Then, building upon lab tests, the pilot-scale runs (TRL5) will investigate the overall process.

In the framework of BioSFerA project the hydrocarbons compatibility with aviation and marine standards for drop-in fuels will also be verified. Techno-economic, market, environmental, social and health and safety risk assessments will be performed on the overall BioSFerA process and, together with a process model, allow to achieve a realistic scaling-up scenario. This will allow to develop a cost-effective and versatile value chain with favourable condition for profitable investments around Europe.

Biosfera international consortium is composed by some research and public institutes:

CERTH (Greece), VTT (Finland), Fundacion Cartif (Spain), Bio base europe pilot plant VZW (Belgium), CSIC (Spain), National technical university of Athens (Greece); and some private companiesKuwait Petroleum Research and Technology B.V (Netherlands), Rina consulting spa (Italy), Sumitomo shi fw energia oy (Finland), GOOD FUELS (Netherlands), Environment Park spa (Italy).