The concept of the biorefinery is analogous to that of petrochemical refinery processes involving a wide range of products and fuels from fossil resources. Biorefineries aim to generate several bio-based products and fuels using renewable resources as a carbon source and bio-based processes. Ideally, they should adjust their inputs and outputs in response to the market supply of different types of biomass and waste and adjust the demand for organic products, biofuels and bioenergy.
Biorefineries should have a cascading approach to the use of their inputs, which favor the highest value added and resource efficient products such as bio-based products and industrial material, via bioenergy. The principle of cascading use is based on single or multiple material uses, followed by energy consumption by combustion at the life of the material, including the consideration of greenhouse gas emission potentials. By-products and waste from a production process are used in other production processes or for energy. Biorefineries can thus contribute to the principles of a “zero waste society”.
In order to increase competitiveness and growth and to maintain the leading role of the European biorefinery industry, it will be necessary to support pilot and demonstration activities for the upward scale of products and processes. The mapping of existing biorefineries on the pilot or demonstration scale in Europe has shown that there are already a large number of pilot plants, but only a very limited number of full scale ones. Increased investments in demonstration facilities will therefore be required, possibly through PPPs, financial instruments, regional funds, etc.
The supply of sufficient quantities of high-quality, renewable raw materials at a competitive price is crucial to the success of biorefineries. A supply chain for raw materials must be developed throughout Europe, which can compensate for possible price fluctuations of a raw material by using another. This includes the improvement of the infrastructure for storage and transport and the development of the necessary logistics. The cascading of biomass should be linked at regional, national and European level. Supply chains and logistics should be linked to a broad network of integrated and diversified biorefineries. Cluster approaches will be indispensable.