Chemical biorefinery perspectives : the valorisation of functionalised chemicals from biomass resources compared to the conventional fossil fuel production route

B. Brehmer

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

In response to the impending problems related to fossil fuels (continued supply, price, and
regional and global pollution) alternative feedstocks are gaining interest as possible solutions.
Biomass, considered sustainable and renewable, is an option with the potential to replace a wide
diversity of fossil based products within the energy sector; heat, power, fuels, materials and
chemicals. All the proposed applications for biomass, however, require direct and indirect fossil
derived inputs. The maximum fossil fuel replacement potential of various biomass systems and
biorefinery concepts were determined using life cycle analysis (LCA) tools. Yet, as opposed to a
traditional LCA, the calculation matrix developed here revolves around energy flows and was
extended to incorporate process efficiency in terms of exergy, essentially compiling a comparative
exergetic cradle-to-factory gate analysis. Inclusion of exergy calculations requires a greater
understanding of the processes and reveals that several previous assumptions towards agricultural
systems are no longer suitable for non-biomass applications. It also revealed that by upholding
the functionality of the biochemicals present in biomass for use as chemical products and
precursors, sizeable reductions of fossil fuels can be achieved. Oriented towards existing bulkchemical
products, the analysis was expanded to systematically determine the optimal biorefinery
cropping system from 16 common bioenergy crops in their corresponding regions. Although no
concrete optimum was determined, the results all led to the conclusion that other biomass
systems based on combustion or conversion to combustible products are sub-optimal in
comparison. The best application of biomass for the replacement of fossil fuels is the
petrochemical industry.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Sanders, Johan, Promotor
  • Boom, Remko, Promotor
  • Struik, Paul, Promotor
Award date24 Oct 2008
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789085049876
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords

  • biomass
  • energy resources
  • renewable resources
  • fuels
  • chemicals
  • biorefinery
  • petrochemical industry

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