Biorefineries – facilities that convert biomass into fuel, energy, chemicals and materials – have a major role to play in combating climate change, says a World Economic Forum (WEF) report.
Professor David King, author of The Future of Industrial Biorefineries report, says “the growth of the bio-based economy could create significant economic growth and job creation opportunities, particularly in rural areas … and in advanced manufacturing.”
The report estimates that a ‘biomass value chain’ could create potential revenues by 2030 of $15 billion for agricultural inputs; $89 billion for biomass production; $30 billion for biomass trading; $10 billion for biorefining inputs; $80 billion for biorefining fuels; $6 billion for bioplastics; and $65 billion for biomass power and heat.
However, the report notes that the industry is currently in a nascent, fragmented state, with many relatively small participants. To scale up the technology will require concerted action from a diverse range of companies, such as grain processors, oil and chemical companies, plastics producers, power generators and technology developers.
By helping make the transition from a petroleum-based economy to one based on biomass, biorefineries will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance energy security. But additional drivers will be needed to scale up the technology, King admits. “Governments have a key role to play in providing seed support … and creating markets to ensure that [the bio-based] economy becomes established and successful,” the report says.
A mix of incentive-based and command-and-control policies is recommended, balancing the demands of energy security, local revenues and environmental sustainability. Governments should also provide significant support for research and development of the new technologies that will be required and the private sector should strengthen current investments in petroleum replacement strategies, King says.
The report was produced in collaboration with chemical companies Royal DSM, Novozymes, DuPont and Braskem.
By. Graham Cooper
Source: Environmental finance