Resource and Energy Efficiency
Despite their early stage of development, biobased chemicals can generate significant energy savings compared to fossil fuel counterparts. Many cases show potential for further improvement in both the environmental and economic profile of these materials as these technologies undergo innovation.
Industrial biotechnology uses enzymes that are operational under mild conditions like low temperatures. Given that enzymes speed up reactions, industrial biotechnology can improve the resource efficiency of processing raw materials in terms of time, water and energy.
Enzymes are also environmentally friendly and provide an alternative to many toxic chemicals. They therefore have considerable environmental and economic advantages over many other systems. Industrial biotechnology can also significantly improve the environmental and economic performance of chemicals production. Biotechnology routes can replace several chemical production steps. This can lead to lower materials inputs, fewer by-products and wastes, as well as lower energy consumption.
Example: Historically, the addition of enzymes has helped lower washing temperatures from 60°C+ to 40°C. With the new generation of cold water enzymes, washing temperatures can even be curbed to so much as 20°C, without having to cede on cleanliness. This substantial reduction in washing temperatures saves 30% of the electrical power used in laundry operations. Furthermore, the duration of the washing cycle, water consumption and the use of strong chemicals can all be diminished when enzymes are added to a detergent.
IB & Biorefineries
The concept of biorefineries is analogous to that of petrochemical refinery processes, which produce a wide range of products and fuels from fossil resources. Biorefineries also aim to produce multiple biobased products and fuels instead using biomass as a carbon source and biobased processes.
In a biorefinery, the use of feedstock is maximised and all biomass components are valorised. This has a positive effect on both the economy and the environment. Typically, a mix of high-value, low-volume products (such as fuels and energy) and low-value, high-volume products (cosmetics and nutraceuticals) are produced in a biorefinery. The high-value products enhance profitability, the low-value products provide scale, and the use of energy from the process itself reduces the facility’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.