FBP journal – a new avenue for the research
BIOREFINERIES have had something of a chequered ride over the last decade or so. They were initially viewed as an important contributor to alleviating climate change and pressure on fossil fuels while enhancing national fuel security and reinvigorating rural communities. However, they have come to be seen by some as antagonistic to food equality while offering minimal benefits, such that their emergence has been hampered by fluctuating governmental policy and subsidy support in the face of adverse economics resulting from the downturn in oil prices. Like the old adage about economics exams, the questions stay the same every year but the answers are different!
This has required a certain teeth-gritting boldness for industry in different countries to continue to develop biorefinery capacity and competence. In the future we will need to respond quickly in informed ways to social, technological, political and economic developments and opportunities.
The research community, meanwhile, attempts to develop tools and apply these to provide answers to issues about environmental impacts and process efficiencies and to develop new products and processing routes. This will provide guidance and options, whilst also supporting and nurturing the collective competence of the biorefinery community to move forward with increasing confidence. To this end, IChemE’s Food and Bioproducts Processing journal has introduced a new theme to support and encourage developments in biorefining and integrated bioresource engineering.
It is important to be clear about what constitutes a biorefinery as opposed to a mere bioprocess. The US’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) widely-quoted definition is: “A biorefinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power and chemicals from biomass. The biorefinery concept is analogous to today’s petroleum refineries, which produce multiple fuels and products from petroleum.”