Exciting future prospects for biorefineries

New EU study describes development paths and outlines strategic roadmap

On May 27, 2021 the study Biorefineries pathways and outlook for deployment was published. The study on behalf of the European Commission, DG Research, aimed to provide an outlook for integrated chemical/material – based biorefineries, which shall be taken up by stakeholders to shape the future of a sustainable bioeconomy. The engagement and recommendations of representatives of economy, science, policy and society at the regional, national and EU level were a key focus of the study.

Main findings of the study concern general drivers, barriers and two growth scenarios for biorefinery deployment up to 2030.

The most important general drivers for biorefinery deployment up to 2030 are: the EU Green Deal, governmental support for expansion and scale-up of biorefineries, the need to reduce dependence on fossil raw materials and products as well as their related greenhouse gas emissions, and the functional benefits that bio-based products are potentially able to provide.

The lack of economic viability was identified as the main non-technical barrier to bio-based chemicals and materials deployment, particularly for biorefineries producing large volume commodities.

For all biorefineries producing bio-based chemicals and materials, the supply of certified sustainable feedstocks is a current challenge. The sustainable feedstock potential, which can be mobilised in the medium and long term in a competitive circular economy, is also being questioned.Today there is a very limited policy-based market pull. The European Commission will propose legislation on the Sustainable Product Policy Initiative extending the Eco-design Directive beyond energy aspects to a broad range of products and the making use of the Product Environmental Footprint method. However, additional policy-based market pull is expected to be required to overcome barriers to bio-based chemicals and materials.

The current bio-based chemicals and materials supply from EU biorefineries is estimated at 4.6 million tonnes. It is estimated that supply from new or expanded biorefineries could grow by an additional 3.1 million tonnes in the EU in 2030 in the high growth scenario, whilst in the low growth scenario this could be limited to an additional 1.1 million tonnes. These growth scenarios set the upper and lower bound of the biorefinery outlook deployment between 2020 and 2030, based on publicly available information on chemical and material driven biorefineries. As these are growth scenarios, the methodology used does not take into account the possible potential closure of existing biorefineries currently operating in the EU.

For both growth scenarios, the EU demand is higher than the projected supply in 2030, meaning that with the right incentives and framework, there is potential for growth in production of bio-based products from biorefineries. The shortfall could be met through imports from non-EU countries and/or supply from alternative ramp-up routes.

The study identifies which types of biorefineries could be established on the market by 2030 and which conditions must be met. The Roadmap for Deployment describes all the results and findings of the study and is available under https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/7223cd2e-bf5b-11eb-a925-01aa75ed71a1.

The project results are summarised in a short video that is available on the project website together with the Roadmap for Deployment. The video is also available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e95Cb9lCEfE.

Project duration: 14 months, 12/ 2019 – 02/2021

Collaborators: E4Tech, Wageningen Research, BTG, FNR, iCons

Project website: https://www.e4tech.com/biorefinery-outlook.php

FNR contact person:
Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V.
Martin Behrens
Tel.: +49 3843 6930-163
Mail: m.behrens(at)fnr.de


Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V., press release, 2021-07-15.


Biomass Technology Group BV (BTG)
Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. (FNR)
ICONS S.r.l.
Wageningen University