White biotech is catalyst for chemical industry growth

27 February 2009 13:44  [Source: ICIS news]

Bio-based chemicals on the riseLONDON (ICIS news)--Sales of industrial or “white” biotechnology-derived products will accelerate to account for 9% of total global chemical industry sales by 2012 whilst petrochemical-based innovation and growth wanes, a leading consultancy said on Friday.

Global group McKinsey & Co said that a growth in the number of applications reaching commercial scale production would bring about a rapid increase in revenues from €100bn ($128bn) – or 6% of the chemical industry total – in 2007 to €153bn by 2012.

“We can replace oil and gas with bio-based feedstocks or replace chemical processes with biological processes such as fermentation or biocatalysis,” said leader of McKinsey’s global biosystems practice, Jens Riese, at a press conference in London.

The end results would be products with the same characteristics as existing chemicals, or those with completely new functions, he added.

Riese claimed innovation based on petrochemical-derived polymers peaked in the 1940s to 1960s and is now waning.

“Cracker innovation has largely been exploited – there have been no fundamentally new polymers in recent years. White biotechnology is a great opportunity to stimulate new innovation for the chemical industry,” he said.

Riese said the next five years would see the introduction and growth of new biopolymers and bio-based bulk chemicals produced through fermentation. Production of chemicals produced by enzymes was expected to see moderate growth.

New bio-based building based around products such as lactic acid and succinic acid would stimulate the next wave of innovation in polymers, he added.

Growth in biofuels would continue strongly, though the low oil price would cause some “mid-term price pressure”. There would be fast growth in traditional bio-based chemicals such as natural rubbers, botanical oils and moderate growth in hydrocolloids, said Riese.

($1 = €0.78)

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By: Will Beacham
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