Material Flow Management

The Department of Material Flow Management deals with issues concerning the economy of natural material flows (bio-economy) from a regional perspective. It aims to contribute to the defossilization of our society in the context of the energy transition and to a substitution of fossil raw materials in the material use. The department focuses on defining and assessing the potentials of defossilization of a region, while taking into account (i) the different functions of a cultural landscape (nature protection, economic and recreational functions), (ii) people’s needs and (iii) the interdependencies with other spaces. Besides the focus on bioenergy, the researchers in this department also work on the fields of bio-economy, which includes issues such as the material utilization of biomass, cascaded utilization and nutrition security. In addition to the traditional material flow analysis, the analysis of economic and social Transformation Processes is also an important element in this context, so that the possibilities to implement bio-economical structures can also be understood from a holistic point of view.

In the field of bio-energy, the department works on:

  • Bioenergy potentials and changing markets and perspectives of use
  • different utilization path ways of biomass in the context of their economic and ecological effects, and intersectoral dependencies
  • contribution of bioenergy to the energy system of the future, particularly to the energy transition in the heat sector, to process energy and to GHG-neutral carbon utilization (e.g. through sector coupling)
  • Infrastructural prerequisites and technical considerations of the energy transition from the perspective of bioenergy
  • sustainable refinancing systems of facilities for the various utilization pathways

As further aspects of the bio-economy, the department carries out studies on material usage options, while giving particular consideration to cascade processes and their effect in rural areas. This includes the comparison of different biomass usage options. In this context, the effects of regional value added are also analyzed on the one hand. Further, the natural conservation effects of the use of biomass are investigated on the other.

In the area of transformation processes, it is necessary to understand the regional decision-making processes within the scope of climate protection in order to initiate and establish these transformations. Further, it is important to analyse the regional, national and EU-wide processes as well as political and legal framework conditions.

Thus, the department contributes to a sustainable land use development through Governance Analyses. Withon the framework of these analyses, the department deploys a highly diverse range of analytical and evaluation methods to evaluate the courses of action. The department's methodological tooly of assessment include Life Cycle Assess,emt (LCA), methods of Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA), value-added analysis as well as verbal/argumentative evaluation methods such as SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and policy analysis.

Furthermore, the employees of the department have competencies in the following methods of analysis:

  • Economic and technical feasibility studies for the implementation of practical projects along the biomass value added chain
  • Clustering techniques for detecting similarity structures in (large) databases, e.g. agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis
  • Spatial analysis using GIS-based techniques (ArcGis) to overlay geoinformation, e.g. site development, shortest-path-problem, network analysis, buffer zone generation, heat demand analysis
  • Potential analyses to estimate the feasibility of bio-economic structures at regional, national or international level in the field of forestry and agriculture as well as residual materials
  • Scenario technique or comparing alternative future developments within a region as well as their possible consequences and interactions
  • Social-empirical analyses, e.g. content analyses for the quantitative analyses of texts or interviews
  • Comparative legal analyses of, above all, energy law and agricultural environmental law
  • Analysis with the software umberto® for LCA and CBA

Our team has the scientifix background in the following areas: Forestry and Agricultural Sciences, Politics and Law, Economics and Engineering.

We are the contact for bio-based regional development and bio-economy in the Greater Region of Saarland, Wallonia (Belgium), Lorraine (France) and Luxembourg. Nationwide and EU-wide, this department is particularly involved in issues of bioenergy, heat transition and development of organic fertilizer. We also work together with many partners in national and international projects.