Biochemicals are products derived from renewable biological sources such as plants, animals, or their wastes. There is a very large number of possible products that can be made using a variety of feedstocks and reaction pathways. Most familiar examples include ethanol produced by fermentation, citric acid (long history), and propylene glycol (a newly introduced bioproduct). Most biochemicals are produced to serve as intermediates for the production of more complex chemicals for use in various industries, most notably food/beverage, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals.
Beyond existing production, bio-derived chemicals represent a secure, renewable, and environmentally responsible alternative to petroleum-derived chemicals. Currently, ~13% of the crude oil consumed by the United States is used for nonfuel chemical production. A joint report by the DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that U.S. agricultural and forest sources can renewably supply a billion tons per year of lignocellulosic biomass. This amount of biomass would not satisfy U.S. fuel demands, but could theoretically replace petrochemical feedstocks for chemical production with a much higher value as compared to fuel.
Biomass-based processes that could replace crude oil harness enzymatic methods, microbiology, metabolic engineering, and thermal and catalytic conversions to direct the transformation of sugars, lipids, and other biomass-derived molecules to the desired small molecules and polymers.
A biochemical expert is someone who has significant knowledge/experience in the area of biomass feedstocks, material (especially solids) handling, processing, reaction engineering, separations, process technology development, techno-economic and life cycle evaluations, scale-up, design and manufacturing challenges, commercialization and a keen understanding of fairly new to world supply chains. Such experts typically have training as a chemist, chemical/mechanical engineers, biologists/biochemists, and catalysis.
Such an expert can help clients in evaluating a new process technology, help with R&D stages for scale-up, help investors in vetting the technology, and connect with other experts and vendors to allow better due diligence or feasibility studies. For the evaluation of new process technology, experts can help vet techno-economic analysis models, validate assumptions, and help revise models to meet market realities, with an end goal to validate the feasibility for an investor. At R&D stages an experienced researcher can help guide reduction in plant complexity for scale-up, help match the available literature data to reduce overall R&D expenditure and discover bottlenecks at an early stage to avoid practical physical limitations of available equipment from vendors. It is worth mentioning that most new technology development goes through a stage gate process, as technologies mature from lab to pilot to commercial, an expert can help the transition by leveraging federal or commercial funds. First-of-kind plants based on such technology advancements especially benefit from expert help, with review/participation in designing, process control, plant layouts, construction oversight, and commissioning reports. Other two areas that are of significance are plant operation/start-up assistance and legal witness/expert help.
Lee Enterprises Consulting is the world’s premier bioeconomy consulting group, with over 150 highly qualified experts serving in biomass to chemicals and all the other expertise areas within the bioeconomy. Take a look at our experts and the services we provide. Most of our experts are also available to advise and serve as expert witnesses in bioeconomy litigation matters. For larger projects, we specialize in putting together full-service, interdisciplinary teams with one point of contact. Call us at 1+ (501) 833-8511 or email us for more information.