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Bioenergy > Technologies > Biorefinery

A biorefinery is a "refining facility where biomass is converted into fuel, chemicals, materials, and other uses, all at the same plant." (Source: Biofuels for Transport, Worldwatch Institute, 2006.)

  • One example of a company utilizing biorefineries is Borregaard of Norway; their woodbased biorefinery utilizes wood from spruce trees as the feedstock and produces wood-based chemicals and products including "specialty cellulose, lignin products, vanillin, bio-ethanol and yeast products."[1]
    • The company's website also states that "Borregaard is the only manufacturer in the world to use wood as a raw material for its vanillin production. Lignin, the binding agent in wood, is modified to produce pure vanillin," "the most commonly used flavor and aroma ingredient in the world."[2]



  • Washington Start-Up Promises Cheaper, More Efficient Biofuel Generation, 22 April 2011 by Triple Pundit: "One start-up in Washington state promises that it can develop biodiesel cost effectively with a wide range of feedstocks: everything from wood chips to waste from the pulp and paper industry."
    • "The company uses two fuel processing techniques that can convert wood and other plant-based materials into biodiesel: one is specifically from the pulp and paper industry, the other similar to petroleum refining."
    • "Instead of using enzymes or microbes, the process involves acid hydrolysis, almost identical to a process that the pulp and paper industry uses."
    • "According to Mercurius, a biorefinery using its technology could produce biodiesel at US$0.90 a gallon; that is almost two-thirds less than the cost to make a gallon of cellulosic ethanol, which currently runs about US$2.40 a gallon."[3]
  • USDA revises plan to boost biofuel investment, 19 April 2011 by Denver Post: "The U.S. Department of Agriculture is embarking on a revised biorefinery-finance program that it hopes will boost the amount of cellulosic-biofuel production in the country."
    • "The USDA seeks to make the advanced-biofuels industry more attractive to private investors, who so far have been averse about pledging money to what they view as untested technology. The lack of investment forced the Environmental Protection Agency to waive its plan to have 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol blended into the fuel supply by 2011 and seriously jeopardizes its goal of 1 billion gallons by 2013."
    • "The updated guidelines slash many of the fees entrepreneurs had to pay just to apply to the program and also allows banks to securitize a larger portion of the loan debt and sell it in the bond market."[4]
  • Mexican Scientists Focus on Producing Biofuels from Trash, 15 April 2011 by Latin American Herald Tribune: "Mexican scientists are developing a bio-refinery that will convert organic waste into hydrogen, natural gas and substrates used in industry, the Center for Advanced Research and Studies, or Cinvestav, said."
    • "The project will emulate the operating model of a traditional refinery and obtain different products from the same material, in this case waste, Carlos Escamilla, a doctoral student in Cinvestav’s Biotechnology Department, said in a statement about the project he is heading."
    • "The novelty of the Mexican initiative is that hydrogen, methane and enzymes are to be produced from the same raw material."
    • "According to the doctoral student, Mexico produces 102,000 tons of garbage per day, or almost 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) per inhabitant, and 60 percent of that total is organic waste that 'could generate large amounts of electricity, natural gas and substrates for industrial use.'"[5]


  • A wiki for the biofuels research community, 29 October 2010 by "Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have created a technoeconomic model that should help accelerate the development of a next generation of...biofuels....This on-line, wiki-based model enables researchers to pursue the most promising strategies for cost-efficient biorefinery operations by simulating such critical factors as production costs and energy balances under different processing scenarios."
    • "'The high production cost of biofuels has been the main factor limiting their widespread adoption,' says JBEI's Daniel Klein-Marcuschamer. 'We felt that a model of the biorefinery operation that was open, transparent about the assumptions it uses, and updatable by the community of users could aid in guiding research in the direction where it is most likely to reduce the production cost of biofuels.'"
    • "Klein-Marcuschamer, a post-doctoral researcher in JBEI's Deconstruction Division, was the lead author of a paper describing this research that was published in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy. The paper is titled "Technoeconomic analysis of biofuels: A wiki-based platform for lignocellulosic biorefineries (PDF file).'"
    • "The initial JBEI technoeconomic model is formulated to simulate a lignocellulosic ethanol biorefinery that uses corn stover feedstock. Model input factors include the cost of transporting the stover to a refinery, the use of acid pre-treatments to break down lignin and enzymes to break down cellulose into simples sugars, and the fermentation of these simple sugars into ethanol using yeast. From such inputs, users can calculate the resulting energy and greenhouse gas output."[7]
  • BIO Calls for a Range of Policies to Support Biorefinery Commercialization and Create Green Jobs, 4 March 2010: "Public policy should extend support to all biorefinery projects, because production of biobased products and green chemicals at integrated biorefineries holds the same potential to generate jobs, boost economic growth, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as advanced biofuels."
    • Brent Erickson, executive vice president for BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section, stated,"The United States is a world leader in developing industrial biotechnology for biofuels, biobased products, and green chemicals. Deployment of the technology can improve U.S. economic competitiveness, contribute to renewed, sustainable economic growth, and create high-wage, green jobs. U.S. employment in plastics and chemical manufacturing has declined over the past two decades and is projected to shrink further, as capital investment for the petroleum-based industry has shifted away from the United States. Development of domestic biobased products and renewable chemicals can restore competitive advantage to the United States and possibly save jobs in the sector."[10]


  • Saline County Missouri Approves $141 Million Revenue Bonds for Alternative Energy, 31 July 2008 by iStockAnalyst: "Green Star Products, Inc. (OTC:GSPI) today announced that EcoAlgae USA, LLC, has received a signed resolution from Saline County Missouri commissioners to construct a commercial Algae Production Facility in conjunction with an Integrated Biorefinery Complex."
    • "EcoAlgae USA will contract with Green Star's Associated Consortium of Companies to construct the Algae-to-Biodiesel and Next Generation Waste-to-Energy Complex."
    • "The Biorefinery will be the first of its kind and will incorporate all the technologies to produce oil, cattle feed, electricity, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and steam."[12]






Bioenergy conversion technologies edit
Technologies categorized by bioenergy processes:

Biochemical: Aerobic, Anaerobic, Landfill gas collection (LFG), Biodiesel production, Ethanol production
Thermochemical: Combustion, Gasification, Pyrolysis, Depolymerization

Technologies categorized by feedstock:
Algae | Cellulosic technology

Technologies by commercialization status:

Analysis of technologies: Life-cycle analysis


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