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Bio-based World News: View from the USA

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View from the USA: A Billion Reasons that Chemicals & Bioproducts are Vital to a Competitive Bioeconomy

By Michele Jalbert & Corinne Young on Jul 22, 2016 In mid-July, the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), in partnership with Oak Ridge National Labs and other federal agencies issued the third in a series of landmark technical assessments calculating the potential supply of biomass in the contiguous United States. Today, in the first in a series of guest Views frResizedbilliontoncoverom the USA, Michele Jalbert, chief operating officer, and Corinne Young, chief advocate, of the Renewable Chemicals & Advanced Materials Alliance (re:chem), weigh in on the implications for the renewable chemical sector.

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At re:chem, we applaud the 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy (Ed. – BBWN, 13.07 – Report; US has potential to produce 1bn+ tons of non-food biomass annually by 2040. ) as an exciting new chapter in the US commitment to fostering a robust biomass-based sector. In line with earlier report estimates, the 2016 assessment concludes the US has the potential to sustainably produce at least 1 billion dry tons of non-food biomass resources annually by 2040. It envisions this biomass could be used to produce enough biofuels, bio-power, and bio-products to displace approximately 30% of US petroleum consumption, without compromising production of food or other agricultural products.

Of course, at re:chem, we particularly laud the bio-products dimension of this economic analysis, and the import placed on the need and opportunity for high-value biochemical and bio-products. For years, we have worked with the US Departments of Energy, Agriculture and other federal agencies to elevate the importance of renewable chemicals and bio-products in policy discussions which frequently center around energy security and independence. The reality is, and the 2016 Billion Ton Report amplifies, that “a thriving bio-economy would utilize domestic biomass resources available and convert them to a wide array of renewable chemicals and other products, transportation fuels, and fuel for power production.”

The 2016 Billion Ton Report now charts a path toward robust US sector development with product diversity to cross-subsidize those elements of the bio-economy that are not immediately profitable. It specifically emphasizes the production and use of biofuels, bio-power and bio-products. It is this trio’s breadth and depth within the sector that promises its future expansion. As BETO Director Jonathan Male noted in a recent post, “The continued integration of bio-based chemicals and materials along the biofuel-production pathway will lead to new feedstock demands, technology development, and economic opportunities. Innovation in the field of biotechnology will continue to offer solutions to processing challenges and drive the development of new biomass-based products. These products can, in turn, enable the cost-effective production of advanced biofuels, improve energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to U.S. job growth.”

With the inclusion of high-value bio-chemicals and bio-products, the 2016 Billion Ton Report ensures the US stays on the global bio-economy map.

A comprehensive guide, the 2016 Billion Ton Report assesses the biophysical, economic, and sustainable availability of biomass resources under given assumptions and modeling capabilities. It updates baseline information from earlier 2005 and 2011 Billion Ton reports, and considers new feedstocks such as algae, energy crops and municipal solid waste. It offers extensive biomass resource analysis in an easy-to-use format, to help users thoroughly understand the full logistics cost of delivering feedstocks right to the bio-refinery door.

For those companies considering building or expanding US bio-manufacturing facilities, the 2016 Report is an indispensable analytical tool. Among other areas, it offers insight into:

  • Potential economic availability of biomass feedstocks under specified market scenarios, including currently used resources. Cost of production, harvesting, and transportation; potential yield range, and economic supply for 30 candidate feedstocks
  • Advanced feedstock supply system simulation, expansion of feedstock production over time in response to simulated markets

For delivering such a thorough and useful analytical tool, we commend those who worked tirelessly on the 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bio-economy. It can be accessed here, with an online collaboration toolkit and data resource here. It is already promoting new dialogue around renewable chemicals, grounded in sound, detailed resource assessments that will drive diverse sector development. We look forward to continuing to work with US leaders on phase two, and ensuring the US is open and positioned for robust bio-economy business!

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