The Method Handbook aims to provide a consistent basis of documentation and methods for calculation and assessment procedures of selected energy-economic-environmental analyses. The handbook shall be used by all projects as general or additional basis for evaluation. For easier use of the Method Handbook, the website provides an overview of the contents, as well as essential work tools (documentation lists).
For the application of the methods, the website does not replace the careful reading of the handbook.
The Method Handbook of the funding programme “Biomass energy use” is the result of a joint, intense discussion among the funding programme’s participants who, at the start of their work, were faced with the task of designing, harmonising and creating a transparent methodological approach in order to make not only indicators but also cost calculations and balancing comparable.
The Method Handbook is intentionally aimed at the "simple" user who does not deal with the methods presented day-in and day-out. Selected methods for the material flow-oriented balancing of greenhouse gas effects can be applied with limited expenditure in a simple, transparent and comprehensible manner.
For further use, you will also find the essential working tools used in the Method Handbook on this website.
Here, you find:
For the time being, the Method Handbook is being applied within the funding programme and is therefore particularly tailored toward questions relating to the corresponding projects, which are assessed based on the climate protection effects achieved.
There is a great need to provide transparency and harmonisation amongst evaluation methods. The only way to achieve this is to provide information and empirical data for as many research projects as possible. This is an arduous task for the researcher involved and normally results with a compromise.
In its present state of revision, the Method Handbook is not a tool for the complete sustainability assessment of bioenergy systems.
To provide simple, harmonized and transparent methods, simplifications (e.g. degree of utilisation, start-up processes, etc.) and a standardised database (e.g. fuel prices)must be provided for various areas. There is no way to ensure that these simplifications and standardisations are appropriate and suitable for all projects and will generate the desired results. Projects should utilise the suggested data and approaches for the calculation and can deviate from them in justified individual cases. When it is not possible to create a consistent database in a standardised fashion (e.g. process-specific indicators for GHG accounting or analysing potential), the harmonisation process focuses on methodological transparency, which is ensured based on documentation lists.
As a general framework, the overriding assumptions and points of view on which the subsequent balancing processes and assessments are based are described.
One crucial factor taken into account was that the central focus of the funding programme is the optimisation of the use of bioenergy production (above all else, the technical elements). Other objectives include Germany contributing as a major role to climate protection and the assessment of energy, economic, and envrionmental factors.
In the Chapter General Framework you find information on:
o Geographic reference
o Temporal reference
o Energy technology reference
o Sustainability requirements
o Presentation of results
Residues in the funding programme
For the funding programme, the broadly defined term “(biomass) residues” is utilised, which – in light of the energy / technology / science focus of the programme – is suitable for the relevant disciplines (GHG accounting, analysing potential) and does not exclude any biomass fractions:
Figure 2: Definitions of biomass in the programme (Source: DBFZ)
Figure 3: System boundaries and elements (Source: DFBZ)
To increase the comparability and accuracy of potential studies in the funding programme "Biomass energy use", a harmonisation of the definitions and documentation is needed. Due to the diversity of biomass categories (biomass fraction under review, definition of potentials, geographic level, temporal reference, type of data collection, methodology), a standardised methodology for all biomass fractions cannot be provided. But some definitions, the type of documentation and the approach can be standardised in the Method Handbook.
The objective of the harmonisation of methods is not only relevant for the funding programme, but is also pursued at the European level (BEE project 2009).
In a documentation lists the biomass fractions and restrictions considered in the determination of the technical potential should be presented. Thus, more transparency should be provided.
Documentation lists I and II show the most important factors that lead to deviations between the results and illustrate which sustainability aspects were taken into consideration in the determination of the potentials.
Balancing the energy and materials used for the conversion process is a prerequisite for the economic and environmental analysis of the overall chains.Knowing the input and output of the considered bioenergy systems allows calculating indicators with which the conversion process can be characterised and optimized technically and in terms of energy. The indicators used here are based on material and energy balances and are primarily intended for further development of the individual technology groups (combustion, gasification, anaerobic digestion),not for cross comparisons between them.It is the objective of this Method Handbook to harmonise the record of the energy flows entering and exiting the system, or the energy conversion efficiencies among the different projects.
The data is collected in technology-specific projects and the results are presented with the help of a data collection sheet and a documentation list, which differ for combustion, gasification and anaerobic digestion plants. The documentation lists contain entry fields for the necessary material and energy flows and the calculated indicators, but do not make any claim to completeness. In addition to the absolute numeric values, the type of data collection – measured values, derived values, difference values, or assumptions – is also recorded on the data collection sheet and the documentation list. This is intended to document the material and energy flows, as well as the balance indicators transparently and comparably for technologies within one type (e.g. gasification plants) or between different technologies (e.g. gasification and AD plants).Please note the following information for filling in the data collection sheets and documentation lists: The necessary balance indicators must be documented in the first two tables (data collection sheet and a documentation list). To illustrate the certainty of the data, the table consists of two parts. The first part is for entering the balance indicators, and the second part is for the individual material and energy flows with which these were calculated. Through the addition of the material and energy flows for input and output, the plausibility of the data can easily be checked and presented transparently. It is important in this context to specify the boundaries of the balance to which the plausibility check refers. Only the fields shaded in grey have to be filled with the data on the respective system, and the remaining values have to be supplemented via calculation.For the given units, calculation formulas are predefined for the corresponding parameters. If it’s necessary or it is required due to the data situation to use parameters with other units, the predefined calculation formulas have to be adapted accordingly.Examples of filled data collection sheets and documentation lists for each technology field can be downloaded soon here.
Biomass gasification plants:
Anaerobic digestion plants (ADs):
A look at the balance effects
Assessing complex energy technology systems using different partial balances can lead to confusion and errors if the reference states are not defined consistently. If this occurs, the energy difference between the different reference states used then appears as either lost or generated energy flow. Working with inferior and superior calorific values (also referred to as lower and upper heating value) within the same system is the same as using different reference states. For classic thermochemical processes, which take place at very high temperatures, consistently working with inferior calorific value related energy flows is effective and a rather obvious choice since it is backed by long technical tradition.
But it is not quite as obvious for fuel gases from renewable energy sources. In case of natural gas, for example, it has long been common to work with liquid water as the reference state, in other words using the superior calorific value. It is standard practice to use superior calorific value for this fuel. This lays the groundwork for the trend towards a shift away from the inferior calorific value reference and towards the superior calorific value reference in technology assessment.
In the future, a thorough transition should be made, to a standard practice of calculating energy content for material flows based on the same methodology, thus allowing for comparative assessments across technologies. The increasing interconnections between the technologies, for comparison purposes or for material interconnection, speak for this clear and consistent approach. This is also a plan for the future European standardization.
Methodology for calculating the levelied costs of energy
A possibility of determining the cost of GHG mitigation is to calculate the production costs, or levelised costs of energy (LCOE), and carry out an environmental assessment of the different bioenergy production routes. Ultimately, the statements made regarding economic efficiency can help minimise the costs of climate protection and thereby increase societal acceptance of bioenergy, provided the results are implemented politically.
Introducing the production costs (not including delivery to the plant) as a criterion of economic efficiency make it possible to compare the biomass utilisation routes with their different technological approaches, service lives, supply volumes, and separation into the bioenergy forms of fuel, heat and electrical energy. The LCOE are calculated based on the annuity method and are applied uniformly in accordance with the provisions of VDI 6025 (1996).
The micro- and macroeconomic effects are intentionally not presented, since difficult, concept-specific assumptions would need to be made. These have far-reaching consequences, and therefore, cannot be presented in a generalised form.
The system boundaries included in the cost calculation for the projects in the funding programme “Biomass energy use” are the conversion plant, respectively including fuel pretreatment at the plant (chipper, sieve systems, drying, etc.), fuel storage and systems for conditioning the form of energy produced. The upstream chain (biomass supply) is taken into consideration under the costs of fuel procurement. The pure LCOE is calculated, not taking into account potential effects of distribution, to be able to subsequently calculate the GHG mitigation costs.
An expansion of the system boundaries to the distribution is preferable and strived for in order to calculate the positive effects of bioenergy on the provision level. To consider these effects becomes even more relevant considering the transition of the energy production to renewable energy and increasing different supply functions of the different energy fuels.
In the LCOE calculation it is assumed that a tried-and-tested conversion system which has been introduced to the market is investigated. This offers the advantage of economically comparing technologies in different states of development. Furthermore, it is possible to estimate the future potential of pilot and demo plants, and to make strategic decisions with respect to further funding. However, in order not to consider the results entirely independent of the state of development, it is necessary to document the assumptions or the real data (information regarding the state of development, the market availability and the need for development etc.), in order to render the results more transparent and to point out deviations from commercial plants. The LCOE are therefore to be gathered and published together with the following documentation list.
Assessing the environmental implications of bioenergy production is crucial in order to support the ongoing climate and environmental policy debates.
The objective of the methodology suggested is to “provide” a simpler and more transparent methodology which allows for the production of comparable balanced results. Therefore, the application of the methodology of the EU Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (EU RED 2009/28/EG) is the most preferable approach for the calculation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, acidification and particle emissions. This methodology limits itself to the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions, as they have been mentioned in the current discussion of the production and use of bioenergy the most. This calculation methodology appears to currently be the only applicable compromise between the necessity for methodical complexity and ensuring the comparability of the results through approaches and methods that are as straightforward and transparent as possible. The methodology does not constitute a substitute for the life-cycle assessment in accordance with ISO 14040 and 14044.
Some essential factors that are important for the sustainability assessment of the projects within the funding programme cannot be taken into consideration in the necessary depth within this part of the Method Handbook. Therefore, their importance of the following aspects is only briefly referenced in the current version:
The results of the LCA should be presented in a comprehensive and transparent way and in the form of a bar chart and / or in tabular form. For better comparability between GHG balances, a listing of the emissions in CO2-equivalents relative to the functional unit is recommended.
Typically, the data collection takes place with the help of data collection sheets. These sheets contain documented lists of all relevant material and energy flows belonging to the processes feedstock production, provision / transport, distribution and use. The corresponding documentation lists for the conversion processes can be found here.
Documentation list of the relevant material and energy flows for the processes of feedstock production, provision / transport, distribution and use – XLS – 164 KB
In order to assess the balance results of bioenergy systems, the comparison to reference systems is necessary. For the production of energy in the Method Handbook, conventional reference systems are to be referenced as standardised basis of comparison by the projects in the funding programme "Biomass energy use". The reference systems for electricity, heat and fuels for transport are presented, each with values for a review of the average and for a marginal analysis, with concrete data with respect to:
It is recommended to generally use the values of the average systems as reference.
This handbook brings together different methods. The assumptions selected take into account current requirements regarding the sustainable bioenergy use. In its present state of revision, the method handbook is not a tool for the complete sustainability assessment of bioenergy systems. For such a task, it would be necessary to take additional parameters into consideration (e.g. humus effects, iLUC, food security, micro- and macro-economic effects) as well as additional guidance regarding the interpretation of the results.
The further development of this method handbook into an assessment tool for bioenergy systems remains an important topic of discussion accompanying the "Biomass energy use" funding programme, but appears to be useful in the medium term. The aim of simplifying the methodology while avoiding the levelling out of individual technologies’ specific features definitely needs to be fulfilled.
Anyfurther necessary changes to the handbook will only be possible by means of a joint discussion. Adjustments must be carried out by the funding programme’s participants and the handbook’s users. Its further development is a continuous process that requires feedback from both experts and those applying it in practice.
Partners both inside and outside the funding programme are very welcome to provide such feedback.
Do you have questions or comments to the Method Handbook please contact:
Many thanks to all the authors and working groups that have been involved in the preparation of the Method Handbook.
DBFZ Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum gemeinnützige GmbH / Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung GmbH - UFZ
DBFZ Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum gemeinnützige GmbH
André Brosowski, Elmar Fischer, André Herrmann, Stefan Majer, Katja Oehmichen, Diana Pfeiffer, Walter Stinner
Former colleauges of the DBFZ: Philipp Adler, Ralf Schmersahl, Torsten Schröder, Kitty Stecher, Vanessa Zeller, Martin Zeymer
International Institute for Sustainability Analysis and Strategy (IINAS)
Thuringian State Institute for Agriculture (TLL)
This handbook was elaborated also through the joint efforts of the working groups of the programme "Biomass energy use" funded by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and supported by the Association for the Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources (FEE – Fördergesellschaft Erneuerbare Energien e.V.) and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (ifeu – Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung Heidelberg GmbH).
The revision of the current edition is in progress. You are welcome to give your input!
The newest German version of the method handbook will be published in June 2021. If you have any comments or ideas please contact email@example.com.
Example for your possible input:
Revision of the chapter "Energy and material balancing of conversion processes": For this chapter, technology-specific projects can use online data collection sheets and documentation lists for their data collection and presentation of results.
To the data collection sheets and documentation lists in the chapter "Energy and material balancing of conversion processes".
Have you already used the lists or would like to use them in the context of your project?
Then please send your suggestions for improvement to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The accompaying research team coordinates the process of method harmonization in the German research network Bioenergy .
Methodenhandbuch – Stoffstromorientierte Bilanzierung der Klimagase,
Band 04 (2013) – PDF 7,7 MB