Bridging the gap between phytoremediation solutions on Growing energy crOps on contaminated LanDs and clean biofuel production

GOLD is a new Horizon 2020 research and innovation project that aims to grow lignocellulosic crops on contaminated sites and produce sustainable biofuels with no risk of indirect land use change.


Soil pollution is a global problem occurring where intensive industrial activities, inadequate waste disposal, mining, and other human activities, introduced excessive amounts of contaminants into the soil. It is estimated that 2.5 million of potentially contaminated sites are located in Europe only, and an area covering roughly 650,000 ha cannot be cultivated for food and feed, because of excessive concentrations of organic or inorganic pollutants.

Lignocellulosic grasses and herbaceous plants are tolerant of high concentrations of pollutants. Therefore, they can grow on contaminated soils and absorb the pollutants through their roots. At the same time, they are also suitable as biomass to produce modern biofuels. Special conversion processes make it possible to extract the pollutants from the biomass and separate them in concentrated form, so that these areas can be returned to agriculture.
This turns a problem into an opportunity: Soil remediation through the production of clean fuels.


For the optimization of high-yielding lignocellulosic energy crops for phytoremediation trials will be conducted by the international partners to support plant growth under the stressing conditions of the contaminated sites. The Chair of Energy Systems focuses on the production of biofuels from the lignocellulosic biomass, in a way that ensures the extraction of the soil pollutants in a concentrated form. High-temperature entrained flow gasification will be applied, producing a clean syngas which will be further fermented into liquid biofuels. The pollutants will be separated from the biomass by sequestering them in vitrified ash slag or extracting them in a liquid phase in pretreatment.


The deployment of this value chain at scale will allow the production of sustainable biofuels with low risk of indirect land use change (low-ILUC), as the crops will be grown on contaminated land that cannot be used for food production. At the same time, the cultivation of tolerant crops in contaminated sites will gradually reduce the concentration of pollutants in the soil, thus also reducing the exposure of the local populations to potential health risks, and eventually bringing those lands back to an economically viable agricultural use.

This will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and to the objectives of the EU Green Deal, such as zero pollution for a toxic-free environment, preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity, clean affordable and secure energy, to transform the EU economy for a sustainable future.


GOLD - Bridging the gap between phytoremediation solutions on growing energy crops on contaminated lands and clean biofuel production, is a Research and Innovation Action started on 1st May 2021 that will continue through April 2025.

The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 101006873.


  • Launched in 2021, the 4-year project is carried out by an international consortium of partners from the EU, Canada, China and India.
  • Chair of Energy Systems and Chair of of Biochemical Engineering, Technical University of Munich (Germany)
  • Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving (CRES), Greece (Coordination).
  • Agricultural University of Athens (Greece)
  • Renewable Energy Consortium for Research and Demonstration (Italy)
  • ETA Florence Renewable Energies (Italy)
  • University of Maria Curie-Sklodowska (Poland)
  • TNO Bioenergy and Efficiency (The Netherlands)
  • Centre for Research & Technology Hellas (Greece)
  • University of Bologna (Italy)
  • French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment INRAE (France)
  • Yncréa Hauts-de-France (France)
  • Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia (Portugal)
  • Imperial College London (United Kingdom)
  • Wageningen Environmental Research (The Netherlands)
  • Mining Technical Trade METE (Greece)
  • Center for Rural Development and Technology, Indian Institute of Technology (India)
  • Hunan Agricultural University (P.R. China)
  • Université de Sherbrooke (Canada)
  • Institute of Bast Fiber Crops(IBFC)
  • Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (P.R. China).


Twitter: @gold_h2020, Facebook: GOLD-Project-H2020; web: