Commercialising the biorefinery concept

The Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) is a specialist in the IB sector, a unique facility for the promotion of biological substances, systems and processes to produce chemicals, materials and energy

A key principle of the Scottish Governments desire to embrace a more circular economy is the broad application of Industrial Biotechnology (IB). The Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) is a specialist in the IB sector, a unique facility for the promotion of biological substances, systems and processes to produce chemicals, materials and energy; making it well-placed to enable delivery of the Governments vision.

IB application drives Scotlands ‘Biorefinery roadmap specifically via the development and realisation of a number of biorefineries across the country. Although it has close to 100 years of history, Grangemouth will not be the blueprint upon which this technology is built. Circular economy values will encourage us to utilise all these "waste" streams with the least intervention possible and only release the carbon by combustion as the final option. The biorefinery concept embraces this standard by extracting the greatest value from organic feedstocks where fuel and energy make up part of a portfolio of "products".

At All Energy 2016, UK's premier event for renewable energy and sustainable technologies conference, IBioICs Business Development Manager, Dr Paul Hudman argues that the biorefinery concept doesnt work unless you valorise everything - an integrated approach is the best way to do this and IBioIC is working on several relevant projects practicing this principle. IBioIC is working on this principle with GSK through a project to generate fermentable sugars from locally available waste streams. Whether this is timber waste from nearby forestry operations or paper waste from local mills the common theme is that it all contains cellulose, a sugar polymer ubiquitous in plants. This sugar will be used to replace food based glucose in GSKs process with the remaining plant material being burnt to produce heat and electricity for the site.

Although this example sits in the central belt of Scotland, "stranded" resources should be unlocked with local solutions such as local low carbon demonstrator projects, which show a local energy economy approach, linking local energy generation to local energy use. In this area, IBioIC is supporting Xanthella, a small industrial design company that is working on producing systems to grow microalgae. They are championing the use of algae as a new high value industry for remote and rural areas by using cheap renewable energy to power the photobioreactors that are used to grow the algae.

The ASLEE (Algal Solutions for a Local Energy Economy) project will look at the technical and economic viability of creating a predictable demand for renewable electricity through manufacturing in remote and rural areas, producing a sustainable competitive advantage. The project will also investigate how biomanufacturing can allow more deployment of renewables in these areas thus improving the local economy. The aims of much biomanufacturing are high value, low volume products and scalability and fit with local resources. The growth of algae matches these
requirements and makes the project the first in the world to take this whole system approach and incorporate a number of innovative technical and economic features.

There is a country wide rationale in moving Scotland from an oil based economy to a biobased future and IBioIC are guiding the academic and industry collaborations needed to drive this vision.

About IBioIC
IBioICs role is as a specialist in the Industrial Biotechnology (IB) sector, designed to stimulate the growth and success of the IB industry in Scotland by connecting the dots between industry, academia and government. It represents all four colours of IB, facilitating collaborations and guiding organisations from concept to industry adoption.
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