The Biomass Technology Research Center was founded and initiated its activities in October 2005, with a planned term of six and a half years and having its base of operations in the Chugoku Center. About half of the over 100 staff of the Chugoku Center belong to the Biomass Technology Research Center. There are two key reasons why the Biomass Technology Research Center was established in the Chugoku Center.
1. The Chugoku region has been rich in woody biomass resources.
2. The Chugoku region has taken an active role in the utilization of biomass.
Both the population and the principal economic indices, such as industrial shipping in the Chugoku region, are about 7% of the country of Japan. However, its lumbering sector manages 16% of the total in the country due to its calm waves and busy marine transport in the Seto Inland Sea, and is rated the top in the country among the 8 local Bureaus of Economy, Trade and Industry. Primarily, imported lumber from Canada and Northern Europe is processed and sawmill wastes can produce approximately 1% of Japan’s energy consumption if we take advantage of this resource for the whole country. Furthermore, from the Middle Ages to the Taisho era, the whole Chugoku mountainous district, including the Izumo region, produced 80% of the national iron by the traditional iron manufacturing method, "Tatara", using iron sand. The "Tatara" method requires large quantities of charcoal, and 15 tons of charcoal, or approximately 1 ha of forest, is required for one cycle. Assuming 60 annual cycles and the felling of one part of the forest with a 30-year cycle (the usable age of broadleaf trees for charcoal is 30 years), about 1,800 ha (corresponding to a circle of 2.5 km radius) of forest area is required for one "Tatara" installation. As there were more than 30 "Tatara" installations in Chugoku region, it can be seen that this region has used a great deal of forest resource energy.
In the industrial cluster plan of the Chugoku Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry, there is a plan to create a well-grounded recycling-based and sustainable eco-friendly society with the utilization of biomass as an important key technology. Furthermore, the Biomass Project Center was founded at Hiroshima University and the "Experimental Study on Developing a Regional System for Biomass Energy" of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is underway in the Yamaguchi Prefecture and Maniwa City, Okayama Prefecture. And other organizations such as the Industrial Research Institute of Tottori Prefecture are giving high priority to the utilization of biomass. Now, with the challenge of biomass utilization in the Chugoku Region having begun, the contribution of our Biomass Technology Research Center to the local region is strongly anticipated.
The Chugoku Center is spearheading the "Biomass Council." In this council, 40 participating organizations aim at the promotion and creation of a biomass utilization project by focusing on the active exchange of opinions. As a method to achieve this end, the Biomass Technology Research Center will present an economic simulation model of a biomass utilization system, which would be applicable to many kinds of biomass energy utilization systems, and customize it according to the needs of each region. The policy of Biomass Technology Research Center is to promote the practical use of biomass by estimating the concrete economic aspects and environmental effects, and by clarifying the necessary research and development themes and issues. A system analysis has currently been initiated for the biomass utilization needs not only of the Chugoku region, but also all of Japan and Southeast Asia.
With the aim of becoming COE of biomass research in the world, the Biomass Technology Research Center has the objective to increase its contribution to the local area by fostering cooperation between industry, the academic world, and governmental services.