Biorefining industry can boost global economy - report

29 June 2010 16:48  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news)--The biorefining industry has the potential to inject upwards of $230bn (€186bn) into the global economy by 2020 and create more than 800,000 jobs, with the US becoming the biggest benefactor, industry experts said on Tuesday.

In a press briefing about a new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Steen Riisgaard, CEO of Danish biotech firm Novozymes, and Stephen Tanda, board member of DSM, said that the industrial biorefining industry (the conversion of biomass into fuels, energy and chemicals) also had the potential to help mitigate the threat of climate change as well as cut the dependence on fossil fuels.

“Biorefineries will be the refineries of the future. They will be the refineries that will take over as oil becomes more and more expensive and eventually dries out,” said Riisgaard.

"We need an energy replacement that comes at oil's low price, but without its high environmental cost,” he added.

“Over time, cars, trucks and even airplanes are going to run on sustainable low-carbon fuels derived from biomass. Plastics and chemicals will be made from plants rather than petroleum. As a result, biorefineries will infuse billions of dollars into the economy and create more than 800,000 new jobs," Riisgaard said.

The report also states that the biofuels market alone was estimated to more than triple by 2020 and that the share of bio-based chemicals in overall chemicals production would grow significantly to about 9%, Tanda said.

Additionally, Riisgaard and Tanda said that the US was strategically well positioned to be a leader in the biorefining sector and that over the next few years, according to the BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization), bio-based products have the potential to replace 10% of US oil imports.

“The US would be less reliant on imported oil… currently the US uses 20% of the world’s oil, but only has 2% of the world’s oil reserves,” Riisgaard said.

“It would be better off strategically, as at present it produces 25% of the world’s biomass,” he added.

However, Riisgaard warned that the US would have to build on the progress it has made in developing clean energy technologies if it wanted to keep hold of its competitive advantage.

“While the US has a head start, the race itself is only at the beginning,” he said.

The report, 'The Future of Industrial Biorefineries', was authored by professor David King from Oxford University and commissioned by the World Economic Forum with participation from Novozymes, Braskem, DSM and Dupont.

($1 = €0.81)

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By: Franco Capaldo
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