Biorefinery – From Plants to Bioenergy, Biochemicals, Biomaterials, and High Value Products

Course content

“What are the building blocks that plants are made off and how can we deconstruct their complex structures to convert them into sustainable products?” This is the main question that will be addressed in this cross-cutting and interdisciplinary MSc course. Biotechnology, biorefining, agrology, forestry, sustainability, chemistry, engineering, material science, and circular bio-economy are among the themes covered in the entire value chain “From plants to bioproducts”.  The red thread of the course is the holistic biorefinery approach, where sustainable biomass utilization is optimized.

The course will provide the theoretical basis for understanding the biosynthesis and structure of plant tissues and cell walls as well as plant growth. New breeding technologies and genetic tools that can be used to optimize biomass production and tailor biomasses in order to improve the biorefining processes will be covered. Along with this, new agricultural and forestry practices for sustainable intensification of our current production systems will be discussed. The options also include exploiting various biological waste streams and marine biomass (such as microalgae and seaweed).

As an essential part of the course, (biomass) conversion technologies and the various biorefinery routes to produce solid, liquid and gaseous fuels and chemicals will be discussed in detail. This will include a theoretical understanding of chemical, enzymatic and microbial processes in the production of biogas, bioethanol, other upcoming fuels, feed, composites, biopolymers, wood modifications, and platform chemicals. Chemical and thermochemical pathways to produce biodiesel, drop-in fuels, and biochemicals, will be presented.  Examples of high-value product and cascade utilization will be presented.

An essential learning objective is the understanding of how biomass characteristics influence the conversion processes and how to best design processes and select biomass for its most efficient use in a biorefinery. In this context, calculating conversion yields and performing mass balances will be used to estimate process yields and efficiencies. Assessment of sustainability will be demonstrated by life-cycle assessment (LCA) of selected energy products, and thermodynamic principles will be introduced in the context of biomass utilization.

Topics covered are:

  • Plant tissues and cell wall components and their structure
  • New plant breeding strategies and genetic tools for biomass improvement/adaptation
  • Biomass production from agriculture, forestry and aqueous systems (micro- and macro-algae)
  • Examples of biochemicals and biomaterials based on biomass
  • Thermochemical, biochemical and microbial technologies for conversion of biomass to energy carriers, chemicals, materials, and high value products.
  • Sustainability assessment (introductory)
  • General principles of biorefining and circular bioeconomy

MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Biotechnology
MSc Programme in Forest and Nature Management

Learning outcome


After course the student will able to:

  • Define plants as lignocellulosic, starchy, sugary, and/or oil crops and describe their cell wall structure and composition (carbohydrates and lignin).
  • Evaluate C- and N- sequestration in different crop plants in response to growth condition.
  • Outline how breeding and genetic tools can be used to improve biomass productivity or make biomass more suitable for biorefining.
  • Account for mechanical, thermochemical, biochemical, enzymatic and microbial operations and techniques used in biomass conversion.
  • Outline routes for processing and conversion of biomass to major solid, liquid and gaseous materials, energy carriers and platform chemicals: e.g.: Bioethanol, biogas, fatty acids, composites, biopolymers, feed ingredients, and thermal conversion products (such as biooils, synthesis gas, biodiesel, heat and power).


 After course the student will able to:

  • Calculate conversion yields of conversion processes and perform mass balances over bioenergy production systems.
  • Use light microscopy to describe and identify structures on real biomass samples.
  • Explain structural and chemical differences between major biomass source and discus how this influences biorefinery options with regards to chemicals, materials and fuels.
  • Apply knowledge to propose a complete conversion route for a specific biomass to a suitable array of products, including rationalising for selection of appropriate processes.
  • Present relevant knowledge in the form of a scientific poster and participate in academic discussions on technical and sustainability aspects of biorefineries.


After course the student will improve:

  • The ability to take responsibility for one’s own learning. Including: 1) Reading and reflecting on scientific literature. 2) Solving and presenting calculation exercises. 3) Working both individually and in groups. 4) Engaging actively in class dialogue / discussions.

Knowledge sharing. The students of this course often have diverse study background, e.g. biotech. students, agronomists, and students from Copenhagen Business School stimulating cross-disciplinary knowledge sharing and discussions. 

A combination of foundation lectures, guest lectures, dialogue based teaching, group work, calculation and laboratory exercises, excursion to industry, self-studies, poster presentations and discussions.

No general textbook will be used. Instead see Absalon for course literature. Scientific articles, book chapters, laboratory notes and monographs.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

A basic knowledge of agriculture, forestry, breeding, chemistry, and/or biotechnology are required, preferable with a BSc within one of these topics.

The course is identical to the discontinued course LPLK10360U From Plants to Bioenergy. Therefore you cannot register for NIGK21037U - Biorefinery – From Plants to Bioenergy, Biochemicals, Biomaterials, and High Value Products, if you have already passed LPLK10360U From Plants to Bioenergy.
If you are registered with examination attempts in LPLK10360U From Plants to Bioenergy without having passed the course, you have to use your last examination attempts to pass the exam in NIGK21037U - Biorefinery – From Plants to Bioenergy, Biochemicals, Biomaterials, and High Value Products. You have a total of three examination attempts.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Feedback on written exercises will be in writing and oral

Otherwise oral feedback in discussion

Poster preparation and presentation: oral feedback and peer feedback

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation
Type of assessment details
The written assignment consists of a poster hand-in and presentation in block week 8.
Poster presentation counts 20 % and the written exam 80% towards the final grade.
Exam registration requirements

Participation in 80% of lab exercises and excursions.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.

As the ordinary exam.

If 10 or fewer register for the reexamination the examination form will be 20 minutes oral without preperation.

Students that do not meet the Exam registration requirements have to follow the course the following study year.

Criteria for exam assessment

Please see learning outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 50
  • Preparation
  • 118
  • Exercises
  • 34
  • Excursions
  • 4
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 2

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No limit
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board of Natural Resources, Environment and Animal Science
Contracting department
  • Department of Geoscience and Natural Resource Management
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Sune Tjalfe Thomsen   (3-757676426b6970306d7730666d)

Sune Tjalfe Thomsen
Andreas Blennow
Niclas Scott Bentsen
Demi Tristan Djajadi

Saved on the 28-02-2023

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