Platform chemicals

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  • The platform chemicals concept is to establish routes from biomass to new and existing petrochemical products.
  • These are the basic building blocks for the basic petrochemical industry, which produces a wide variety of commodity chemicals. These commodity or bulk chemicals, in turn, are used for an even wider array of fine chemicals and polymers.
  • There are two main ways to produce equivalent platform chemicals to those from fossil derived sources: Arriving to the same chemical structure or finding a chemical that can perform the same duties.
  • Advances in biotechnology are enabling the optimization of feedstock composition and agronomic characteristics and the development of new and improved fermentation organisms for conversion of biomass to new end products or intermediates.
  • The hydrogen and carbon containing platform chemicals are either used as solvents (e.g. benzene, toluene), as starting material for polymers (e.g. ethylene, propylene, butadiene) or are further functionalised with elements such as oxygen, nitrogen or chlorine.
  • The production of chemicals from biomass presents higher mass and carbon theoretical efficiency, and it seems an interesting alternative to provide a renewable path for globally and widely demanded platform chemicals like phenols, solvents (Acetone), soft plastic precursor (Polyethylene) and hard plastic precursor (Polypropylene).
  • Industrial biobased products have enormous potential in the chemical and material industries. The diversity of biomass feedstocks (sugars, oils, protein, lignocellulosics), combined with the numerous biochemical and thermochemical conversion technologies, can provide a wealth of products that can be used in many applications.
  • Research has shown that a number of the platform chemicals that supply advanced manufacturing may be generated from biological sources . The chemical products that can be derived from the biorefinery have the potential to become a significant part of Canada’s economy in the future. The potential Canadian market for industrial chemical bioproducts has been estimated at about $1.7 billion/year.
  • Investment in renewable chemicals is increasing. Many companies have been working for years to move promising laboratory-based technologies that convert renewable feedstocks into value-added commodity and specialty products into commercial-scale production.
  • The polymer market is currently the strongest area for renewable chemicals investment. With a polylactic acid (PLA) production capacity of 140,000 tonnes per year, Natureworks is the leading global producer of synthetic bio-based polymers.
  • The market for (bulk) chemicals is about one billion tonnes per year. About one quarter of this volume are functionalized and may be produced from plants in one way or the other.
  • If 20 % of the harvested plants components are used to obtain platform chemicals, the other 80% may be converted to transport fuel e.g. ethanol and what cannot be converted can be used to make biogas or burnt directly to electricity.

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