Menlo Park, CA - Biomass is generating a great deal of buzz, primarily due to the large increase in biofuel production; currently, however, biomass is becoming an important source of chemicals. The glycerin byproduct from biodiesel production is now a feedstock source to produce other chemicals. This and other opportunities are explored by SRI Consulting (SRIC) in a just released report Chemicals from Biomass, which comprehensively examines biomass as a source of chemicals both on purpose and as a by-product of other manufacturing.
Russell Heinen, Vice-President at SRIC, commented, "This is a very exciting time for biomass; higher oil prices and governmental mandates are encouraging the development of new technologies that can allow biomass derived chemicals to become viable in the near future."
Deriving chemicals from biomass is not new. Prior to the twentieth century, wood, agriculture, and whaling were the source of many chemical products. With growth of the automobile and increased refining of petroleum, commodity organic chemicals were most economically produced as a by-product of petroleum refining, resulting in the growth of the petrochemical industry. Now, with the growing use of biomass for fuels, a similar change is occurring for organic compounds.
Bob Davenport, Director of SRIC's Safe & Sustainable Chemicals group and author of the Chemicals from Biomass report explains, "There will be more chemical production from biomass in the future. But the debate continues on just how these chemicals should be produced. Biomass derived materials will need to be economical and also perform well in their application."
SRIC's Chemicals from Biomass report identifies the chemicals that are produced from biomass today and compares their volume with that prepared from fossil feedstocks. The report examines prospects for future growth, the competition today and potential sources for competition in the future.
The report highlights six major contributing sources of chemicals from biomass. Increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products. Partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals. Forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals. Evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will produce an increasing number of chemicals. Obtaining natural products from plant material is a long tradition for obtaining difficult-to-synthesize products. Agriculture and food processing produce some chemicals, and more may be coming.
SOURCE: SRI Consulting