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Hassani’s research indicates that invasive species found on non-productive land could be used as raw materials for biogas in the future.

Marjaana Hassani

Marjaana Hassani, Doctoral Researcher

  • Doctoral Programme in Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä

  • Title of dissertation: Pientareet ja joutomaat energianlähteinä (‘Roadsides and non-productive land as sources of energy’)

Gasum Gas Fund provides grants to researchers

Gasum supports research and development in the gas sector through the Gasum Gas Fund. 

For the application period and call for applications is open 11, January until 10 in February 2022.

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From invasive species to biogas material? Grant making research possible

The grant from the Gasum Gas Fund enables Marjaana Hassani to conduct research for her doctoral dissertation. Hassani’s research indicates that invasive species found on non-productive land could be used as raw materials for biogas in the future.

Lupins, hogweeds and rugosa roses running wild by the roadside and on non-productive land are a nuisance that should be eradicated thoroughly. This is what Marjaana Hassani was pondering a few years ago when analysing the traditional biotopes of Central Finland for her employer, the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.

“I was driving around the region when the subject of the research started to emerge in my mind. In order to protect our valuable traditional biotopes, we need to get rid of these invasive species,” says Hassani.

She is now working on a doctoral dissertation in the University of Jyväskylä. Her dissertation examines the use of invasive species found on roadsides and non-productive land as bioenergy.

“The biomass used as a raw material for biogas could be gathered from non-productive land in the future, using the invasive species found there, such as lupins and hogweeds,” explains Hassani.

Practical application for biomass

The goal of Hassani’s research is to kill two birds with one stone: to get rid of invasive species on non-productive land and use them for bioeconomy by means of circular economy.

“There is demand for biomass used in bioeconomy. In the countryside, biomass is created by manure, for example, but it must be mixed with other substances to produce high-quality raw materials. However, cultivating grass simply to produce materials for biogas, for example, doesn’t make much sense,” says Hassani.

The issue is topical as environmental reasons are calling for an end to the use of weed killers on invasive species.

“In many countries, invasive species on roadsides and non-productive land are eaten by grazing sheep and cows, but that is not possible here. In practice, the only chance of preventing the spread of invasive species is to cut and collect them from the roadsides. It would be important to find a practical application for this biomass at biogas plants, for example.”

Seed germination is a challenge

In her research, Hassani has particularly examined how to handle invasive species so that their seeds cannot spread, even after processing the plants into biomass.

“The problem is that the seeds have a high dispersal capacity and are very durable. They can withstand diverse and extreme weather conditions. Research indicates that brief composting or decomposition for a month, for example, is insufficient in destroying the seeds,” says Hassani.

Therefore, using invasive species as raw material for biomass means they need to be processed over a long period of time. Moreover, the seeds of different species require different conditions for their destruction.

“Preliminary research results indicate that this mass of raw materials should be processed with a long composting or decomposition time and, for example, in high temperatures. This is important in preventing the spread of invasive species as the law also distinctly specifies that the seeds of invasive species must not be released back into the environment,” says Hassani.

The grant ensures faster results

The grant received by Hassani from the Gasum Gas Fund has played a vital role in the research project.

“This research wouldn’t have been possible without the grant. The grant is essential in enabling the swift completion of the dissertation instead of taking years and years to finish. A delay in the project would benefit no one as the issue is topical right now,” she says.

According to Hassani, applying to the grant was also beneficial due to the rapid increase of biogas production.

“Our future energy production and traffic arrangements are under various, heavy demands from various parties, such as the EU. What we need now is research that supports our actions. Collecting all the data we can find on the opportunities of biogas, for example, enables us to develop our operations in the future as well.”

Hassani points out that cooperation between different fields of research will yield better results in terms of biogas production, nutrient recycling and the prevention of invasive species.

“I hope this type of research highlights how cooperative measures from various operations are needed to solve these problems.”

Hassani’s doctoral dissertation is expected to be finished by the end of 2022. Before that, there is much to do.

“In the early part of the year, I will work on a research article on the results of previous experiments, and later, I will focus on a research article on roadside mowing experiments,” says Hassani.

Text: Pi Mäkilä


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