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What is a biorefinery?

Endless areas of application. Using biomass as a raw material, we can now produce anything from paint and toothpaste to electricity and fuel for fossil-free aircraft. Biorefineries allow us to utilise the parts of the biomass that were previously not fully utilised in the forestry and food industries, for example. The objective is to utilise bio-based resources in the most efficient manner possible, while also developing new green products to replace products that have previously been fossil-based.

A biorefinery consists of a range of new processes, technologies and solutions that, together, create new conditions for converting biomass to new green and climate-friendly products. Raw materials used in a biorefinery come solely from renewable sources. The forest is one common source, although any biomass can be used in principle. In addition to raw materials from forestry, waste products from agriculture and abattoirs are examples of raw materials used in biorefineries, while end products can be anything from paint, fabrics and chemicals to electricity, heat and fuel.

Maximising the value of biomass

There is great potential for making more resource-efficient use of residual volumes already available, which also maximises the value and use of each quantity of biomass. At the same time, it also satisfies parts of the need to replace and out-compete fossil-based products. At RISE, we are currently working on a number of different projects in which, as an example, we are developing new insulating materials for the construction industry, as well as fossil-free components for adhesives, paints and fish feed, all of which is based on biomass. 

The key idea here is to turn all the promising development work that is already available into business opportunities

New bio-based products are needed to achieve the global climate objectives

The Swedish government has set clear environmental targets to meet the global climate challenges. An important key to achieving these goals is more and new bio-based products, which means that developments within the area of biorefineries must increase. Innovative solutions are crucial to the success of the vision of Sweden becoming the world’s first fossil-free welfare state. A number of research and development projects within bioeconomics have positioned Sweden as an international leader with regard to technologies, processes and products at an early development stage.

Major investment in biorefinery development

In the 2020 autumn budget, the government awarded a grant of SEK 350 million over two years to RISE to intensify the work on sustainable solutions within bioeconomics. By modernising and supplementing the RISE test beds for biorefineries, Sweden can improve the conditions for the commercialisation of new solutions. The investment may contribute towards company formations and international investments, as well as a world-leading centre for resource-efficient, non-toxic and circular bioeconomics.

– “In order to identify the required infrastructure, we will initially listen closely to obtain opinions from industry, academia, contractors and institutes as to which technologies are closest to commercialisation and what they need to achieve full-scale production as soon as possible. The key idea here is to turn all the promising development work that is already available into business opportunities,” says Magnus Head, Head of Bioeconomics and Health.