CSS1: Current and future challenges
July 29, 2022

Authors: Lorenzo Menin, Vittoria Benedetti, Francesco Patuzzi, Marco Baratieri

The challenges inherent to the CSS1 of the FRONTHSH1P project span from the nitty-gritty of the technical aspects to the interpersonal engagement activities at the core of the broader implementation plans. It is no surprise that setting out to create and nurture a new value chain is not an easy task. The partners and stakeholders involved in FRONTHSH1P will be confronted with several potential threats to the timely development of the project.

Starting from the strict technical part, a potential bottleneck may arise from the conversion of the residual wood materials to fuel-grade feedstock, which will have to be in the form of pellets to meet the requirements of the gasifier selected for the project. Key problems that may be encountered here include the likely contamination of the raw wood with other materials, for example, metal nails, that may put at risk the mechanical equipment required to sieve and grind the materials before they can be re-compacted into standard-sized pellets. UNIBZ, who will be involved at this stage as the main player, will have to deal with the possible heterogeneity of the materials and find a single pre-treatment methodology that can suit all the possible residues allocated to the gasification unit.

Second to the pallet-to-pellet conversion, an important technical task will be the logistics related to the movement of the gasification plant around the interested European replication sites, and the relative commissioning. Such commissioning will have to tackle different integration designs required to connect the plant to the utilities and auxiliary systems of the relevant sites. These will include thermal fluid lines, required to cool the system while in operation, as well as inlet gas lines and flue gas lines. Such specificities will need to be assessed in advance for each site and the commissioning procedures adapted to the layouts of each trialling platform.

However, the technical aspects are not exhaustive to the description of the challenges specific to CSS1. These include the ability of the partners to engage with relevant stakeholders in local or foreign territories. This can be especially difficult when the interested parties are not formal partners in the FRONTSH1P project and do not need to comply with specific timelines or objectives. A further set of communication barriers should be added, including language, bureaucracy, legal frameworks, and data availability, that can hinder the process of collecting relevant information and probing local perspectives in the definition of the status quo of each area. The ability to reconstruct the state of each region’s residual material flows will be fundamental to the definition of the type of actions required to increase the circularity of the local supply chains. Any shortfalls in the collection of relevant information may thus have detrimental effects on the ability of CSS1 activities to fulfil their ultimate mission.

Commissioning specificities and engagement barriers, though, are only part of the challenges to be faced during the replication of gasification operations at several European partner sites. While the containerised solution provided by Burkhardt will minimize plant transportation burdens, logistics management remains an issue in the timely delivery of the equipment between countries, especially at a time when disruptions in international shipping activities are not infrequent. Delays in the transfer of the technical systems can represent a source of knock-on effects with significant impacts on the planned schedule and will require the arrangement of cushion time windows as part of the project risk assessment and mitigation plans.