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Monday, November 19, 2007

What is a biorefinery doing?

A biorefinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce

  1. fuels,
  2. power, and
  3. chemicals from biomass.

The biorefinery concept is analogous to today's petroleum refineries, which produce multiple fuels and products from petroleum.

Industrial biorefineries have been identified as the most promising route to the creation of a new domestic biobased industry.

By producing multiple products, a biorefinery can take advantage of the differences in biomass components and intermediates and maximize the value derived from the biomass feedstock.

  1. Food
  2. Wood
  3. Waste

A biorefinery might, for example, produce one or several low-volume, but high-value, chemical products and a low-value, but high-volume liquid transportation fuel, while generating electricity and process heat for its own use and perhaps enough for sale of electricity.

The high-value products enhance profitability, the high-volume fuel helps meet national energy needs, and the power production reduces costs and avoids greenhouse-gas emissions.

We have been doing this in the pulp and paper industry. The goal is to get this to the next level.

  • Biorefinery concept is built on two different "platforms" to promote different product slates. A "sugar platform" is based on biochemical conversion processes and focuses on the fermentation of sugars extracted from biomass feedstocks.

  • A "syngas platform" is based on thermochemical conversion processes and focuses on the gasification of biomass feedstocks and by-products from conversion processes.
What can we do to help to asses and evaluate the socio-economical benefits of a project?
  1. Integrated system analysis,
  2. techno-economic analysis,
  3. life cycle assessments, and
  4. TMBC analysis tools are essential for research and development efforts.
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