Brainstorming on biomass

Forest.pngThe blog has come across a useful new tool for global brainstorming, run out of San Francisco by DiscoveryCast.

They have recently organised a major event with Paris-based SpecialChem to review the current state of play in bio-based initiatives.

This involved a group of 550 experts from 400 companies (including 3M, Dow, Michelin, DuPont, Arkema, Dow Corning, Bayer, DSM, BASF, P&G and Unilever), pooling ideas online.

The conclusions provide a fascinating snapshot of developments in this key area:

• Bio-based initiatives are more technology-driven than market-driven
• There is no clear vision about where the first breakthroughs will occur
• Areas of current study include lignin for PF resins, and a possible role for fermentation to develop oxygenated and di-acid intermediates
• Key technology trends in the use of genetically engineered organisms (eg bacteria, algae, or plants) are still in their infancy.
• The development of enzymes and catalysts to efficiently transform sugar-based feedstocks is attracting widespread interest.

Significant resources are being invested in bio-based materials, and current thinking is focused on developing business models that aim to replace oil-based chemicals by copying or mimicking petrochemicals.

Bio-based aliphatic systems are likely to be an earlier market than aromatics, as the latter don’t currently exist on a commercial scale. Equally, participants appeared realistic about the multiple hurdles that still have to be overcome (e.g. the food vs. chemicals debate, lack of consistent “green labelling” for consumer products).

Overall, brainstorm participants expected a number of niche opportunities, and some medium-sized opportunities, to develop over the next few years. But understanding the market drivers for these new products will be key to success.

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. He also serves as a Global Expert for the World Economic Forum. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry and the global economy over the next 12 – 18 months. It looks behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in critical areas such as oil prices, China and Emerging Markets, currencies, autos, housing, economic growth and the environment. Please do join me and share your thoughts. Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.

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