Bio-Chemicals Reports & Studies Uncategorized

Biobased Chemicals Update 2020

Since the first issue of the IEA Bioenergy Task 42 report on bio-based chemicals in 2011, the importance of a circular economy has become evident.

In the transition to a circular economy, chemicals and materials produced from biomass will play a key role.

Given the tremendous focus on climate and actions to mitigate climate change, steps are being taken to move from today’s fossil-based economy to a more sustainable economy based on renewable energy, biomass and recycling.

This IEA Bioenergy Task 42 report shows that global bio-based chemical and polymer production is estimated to be around 90 million tonnes.

However, the relatively low price of fossil feedstocks as well as its volatility together with optimized fossil-based production processes has hampered the acceleration of the commercial production of bio-based products as projected in the previous bio-based chemicals report from 2011.

In addition to increased recycling, enlarged chemical and polymer production from renewable resources is an essential part of the transition to a circular economy.

As it is evident from this report, not many major chemical players are actively pursuing this approach and that deployment over the last several years has been much slower than expected.

Executive summary

Since the first issue of the IEA Bioenergy Task 42 report on bio-based chemicals in 2011, the importance of a circular economy has become evident.

In the transition to a circular economy, chemicals and materials produced from biomass will play a key role.

Given the tremendous focus on climate and actions to mitigate climate change, steps are being taken to move from today’s fossil-based economy to a more sustainable economy based on renewable energy, biomass and recycling.

The transition to a bio-based circular economy has multiple drivers as well as requirements;

  • The need to develop an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable circular global economy
  • The desire of many countries to reduce an over dependency on fossil fuel imports by diversifying their energy sources
  • The global issue of climate change and the need to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions
  • That processes and products are “Safe by Design”
  • That chemicals and materials are designed for cost-, material- and energy-efficient

recycling

  • The “End of Life” solution of the products is equal to or preferably better than the

incumbent products

  • And deployment of biorefineries in rural areas will stimulate regional and rural

development

One of the key institutions to drive this transition to a more sustainable bio-based economy is the IEA Bioenergy implementation agreement.

Within IEA Bioenergy, Task 42 specifically focuses on Biorefining in a Circular Economy; e.g. the co-production of fuels, chemicals, (combined heat &) power and materials from biomass.

A key factor in the deployment of a successful bio-based economy will be the development of biorefinery systems allowing highly efficient and cost effective processing of biological feedstocks into a range of bio-based products, and successful integration into existing infrastructure.

This report shows that the global bio-based chemical and polymer production is estimated to be around 90 million tonnes.

However, the relatively low price of fossil feedstocks as well as its volatility together with optimized fossil-based production processes has hampered the acceleration of the commercial production of bio-based products as projected in the previous bio-based chemicals report from 2011.

In addition to increased recycling, enlarged chemical and polymer production from renewable resources is an essential part of the transition to a circular economy.

As is evident from this report, not many major chemical players are actively pursuing this approach and that deployment over the last several years has been much slower than expected.

Nevertheless, within the bio-based economy as a whole and within the operation of a specific biorefinery there are significant opportunities for the development of bio-based building blocks (chemicals and polymers) and materials (fibre products, starch derivatives, etc.).

In many cases this happens in conjunction with the production of bioenergy or biofuels.

It is estimated that the production of bio-based products, in addition to biofuels, could generate US$ 10 billion of revenue for the global chemical industry.

However, current market conditions, uncertainty about trade agreements, future carbon pricing as well as a non-holistic and polarised bioeconomy debate have hampered the deployment as well as the role-out of biobased initiatives.

  • Within IEA Bioenergy Task 42 “Biorefining in a Circular Economy”, a biorefinery classification method for biorefinery systems has been developed. This classification approach relies on four main features, which are able to classify and describe a biorefinery system:
    1. Platforms (e.g. core intermediates such as C5 -C6 carbohydrates, syngas, lignin, pyrolytic liquid)
    2. Products (e.g. energy carriers, chemicals and material products)
    3. Feedstock (i.e. biomass, from dedicated production or residues from forestry, agriculture, aquaculture and other industry and domestic sources but also CO2)
    4. Processes (e.g. thermochemical, chemical, biochemical and mechanical processes)

    The platforms are the most important feature in this classification approach: they are key intermediates between raw materials and final products and can be used to link different biorefinery concepts with target markets.

    The platforms range from single carbon molecules such as biogas and syngas to a mixed 5 and 6 carbon carbohydrates stream derived from hemicellulose, 6 carbon carbohydrates derived from starch, sucrose (sugar) or cellulose, lignin, oils (plant-based or algal), organic solutions from grasses and pyrolytic liquids.

    These primary platforms can be converted to a wide range of marketable products using mixtures of thermal, biological and chemical processes.

    In this report, a direct link is made between the different platforms and the resulting biobased chemicals.

    The economic production of biofuels and bioenergy is often still a challenge.

    The co-production of chemicals, materials, food and feed can in principle generate the necessary added value to solve the economic challenges.

    An example is the co-production of distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and corn oil in a corn ethanol dry-milling plant.

    This report highlights all bio-based chemicals with immediate potential as biorefinery ‘value added products’.

    For commercial products, market sizes are given where available. The selected products are either demonstrating potential market growth or have significant industry investment in development and demonstration programmes.

    This report shows that by far the biggest biochemical produced today is bioethanol with more than 80% share of total combined production capacity.

    The report introduces companies actively developing bio-based chemicals and provides information on potential greenhouse gas emission savings and how the co-production of bio-based chemicals with biofuel can influence the economics of biofuel production.

    The IEA is publishing its World Energy Outlook yearly. In this outlook three different scenario’s are discussed in relation to energy usage and global warming: the Current Policy scenario; the Stated Policy scenario and the Sustainable Development Scenario.

    Since the first publication of the Biochemical Report in 2011, the anticipated growth in biochemicals production capacity (excluding bioethanol) has not materialised yet.

    The main reasons for this lack of growth include the significantly lower oil prices compared to a decade ago, the different economies of scale of fossil- based plant capacities versus biobased plant capacities, high feedstock costs as well as the lack of policies, which would facilitate the transition to a biobased economy.

    It can therefore be concluded that the Current Policies as well as the Stated Policies for the chemical industry are not sufficient to reach the goals as defined in the Sustainable Development Scenario in a circular bioeconomy.

    This report identifies actions in the areas of policy (e.g. High CO2 price > 100 $/t; fossil subsidies are gone; net CO2 sequestration incentivised; circular economy is mandatory; sustainable forestry and agriculture is mandatory), technology (e.g. High progress in: up- and downstream processes for bio-based feedstock; ethanol-to-chemicals; Green H2-production; widespread algae/ seaweed utilisation), feedstock availability (e.g. No restrictions on 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation, all are available) and social acceptance (e.g. High acceptance of climate treat and for climate policy resulting in: agreement on biomass sustainability and biodiversity; willingness to change behaviour; willingness to pay for climate-friendly products; open attitude to locations of facilities, less meat demand (resulting in high feedstock availability), which are in our opinion necessary to align with the Sustainable Development Scenario.

    1. Introduction

    The production of bio-based chemicals is not new, nor is it an historic artefact (1). Current global bio-based chemical and polymer production is estimated to be around 90 million tonnes (1).

    Notable examples of bio-based chemicals include fermentation products such as ethanol, lysine and citric acid, and sorbitol, glycerol as well as fatty acids.

    However, the majority of organic chemicals and polymers are still derived from fossil based feedstocks, predominantly oil and gas.

    Non-energy applications account for around 9% of all fossil fuel (oil, gas, coal) use and 16% of oil products (2).

    Global petrochemical production of chemicals and polymers is estimated at around 330 million tonnes.

    Primary output is dominated by a small number of key building blocks, namely methanol, ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene and xylene.

    These building blocks are mainly converted to polymers and plastics but they are also converted to a staggering number of different fine and specialty chemicals with specific functions and attributes.

    From a technical point of view almost all industrial materials made from fossil resources could be substituted by their bio-based1 counterparts (3, 4).

    However, currently the cost of bio-based production in many cases exceeds the cost of petrochemical production.

    For chemicals with novel functionality, e.g. lactic acid, succinic acid, furandicarboxylic acid, must be proven to perform at least as well as the petrochemical equivalent they are substituting and to have a lower environmental impact.

    Historically biobased chemical producers have targeted high value fine or speciality chemicals markets, often where specific functionality played an important role.

    The low price of crude oil acted as a barrier to bio-based commodity chemical production and producers focussed on the specific attributes of bio-based chemicals such as their complex structure to justify production costs.

    The climb in oil prices in the first decade of this century, the consumer demand for environmentally friendly products, population growth and limited supplies of non-renewable resources have opened new windows of opportunity for bio-based chemicals and polymers.

    However, the general volatility in the oil prices as well as the recent decline in oil prices in recent years have hampered business cases as well as investments in novel technologies.

    To become truly sustainable and circular, industry is increasingly viewing (chemical) recycling as well as chemical and polymer production from renewable resources as the future modus operandi and an attractive area for investment.

    However, the price of oil and consumer demand is not the only driver in these areas. Emerging economies such as the BRIC countries require increasing amounts of oil and other fossil based products, and are creating a more competitive marketplace.

    Also, security of supply is an important driver in biobased products as well as bio-energy.

    2. Biorefineries and the bio-based economy

    Around the world small but distinct steps are being taken to move from today’s fossil based economy to a more sustainable economy based on greater use of renewable resources.

    The transition to a bio-based economy has multiple drivers: the global issue of climate change and the desire to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, an over dependency of many countries on fossil fuel imports, the anticipation that oil, gas, and maybe coal production will reach peak production in the not too distant future; the need for countries to diversify their energy sources, and the need to stimulate regional and rural development (6-10).

    Biofuels and Bio-based products (chemicals, materials) can be produced in single product processes; however, the production in integrated biorefinery processes producing both bio-based products and secondary energy carriers (fuels, power, heat), in analogy with oil refineries, is probably a more efficient approach for the sustainable valorisation of biomass resources in a future biobased economy (11-13).

    Biorefining can also be integrated with food or feed production, as is the case with first generation ethanol production.

    Read more

    https://www.ieabioenergy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Bio-based-chemicals-a-2020-update-final-200213.pdf

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