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Renewable Chemicals Helping to Build the Biobased Economy

October 18, 2012
“The future is now and it is here,” said Pramod Chaudhari, executive chairman of Praj Industries. “Each one of us is making the effort and pushing the envelope to create a new biobased economy.” Chaudhari discussed efforts to find renewable chemicals that can replace petroleum along with other panelists at BIO’s Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy plenary session, Biotechnology and Renewable Chemicals: The Future is Now.

The panelists talked about using renewable chemicals to make the world more sustainable and ensure the future of the planet is greener, healthier and happier. The key, they agreed, is smart biorefineries that accept multiple feedstocks and create multiple products.

William Baum, Chief Business Development Officer of Genomatica, noted the incredible progress the industry has made in building pilot and commercial scale plants. BIO has created a picture book of biorefineries across the United States called “Visible Progress in Commercialization of Advanced Biofuels, Biobased Products and Renewable Chemicals”. It includes commercial facilities that have been in operation for as many as 10 years and new ones under construction. It also shows demonstration and pilot biorefineries that are scaling up innovative processes. These biorefineries are producing new employment opportunities and jump-starting economic development when they’re needed most.

The panelists admitted there are challenges the industry faces including feedstock availability and cost consistency, the ability to economically scale up from demonstration to commercial plants, attracting financing in a challenging investment climate and competition such as new availability of large quantities of natural gas in the United States.

Despite the challenges, they agreed that now is the time for renewable chemicals. With constant concerns over the price volatility and availability of crude oil, now is a better time than any to continue the push toward a biobased economy that provides fuels, chemicals, products and energy sustainability thanks to advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals. Biobased chemicals are becoming more cost competitive making them a near-term opportunity for the replacement of petrochemicals with renewable resources. Fortunately, we are on the path to commercialize these solutions and to build a worldwide biobased economy, which is good news for business, consumers and our environment.