Instead of bright sunny mornings, people in many parts of the world are waking up to gray winter mornings, even in summers. This is because of the dense haze enveloping the earth, as a result of the extreme levels of air pollution. But, this is not the only way air pollution impacts the world: there are respiratory diseases, such as lung cancer and asthma, as well as global warming and climate change. Alarmed at the situation, people around the world have started taking steps to check the release of harmful substances into the atmosphere.
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Since the burning of fossil fuels, including diesel, gasoline, natural gas, and coal, has perhaps the biggest part to play in air pollution, they are being gradually phased out and replaced by cleaner alternatives. But, even these cleaner alternatives have to be produced first, which is why the biorefinery market is growing around the globe. Such a facility converts biomass, such as organic waste from industries and households, into biogas, biofuel, fertilizers, and a lot many essential substances. To create enough feedstock, the farming of an array of crops is essential.
The conversion of the feedstock into usable products takes place via the physicochemical, thermochemical, or industrial biotechnology approaches. Among these, most of the biorefineries have utilized industrial biotechnology till now, while in the coming years, the usage of the thermochemical technology is expected to witness the sharpest rise. The specific processes used for the conversion of organic substances into energy, materials, and chemicals include pyrolysis, fermentation, gasification acid hydrolysis, and esterification.
Before the creation of the final product, a lot of useful intermediates are produced at such places. Some of these are biogas, syngas, hydrogen, C5 and C6 sugars, and lignin. Biorefineries are categorized two ways, based on the purpose they serve: those which produce heat, power, and fuels, and those which supply biobased materials. Among the different biomass fed into such factories are starch crops, sugar crops, oil-based crops, lignocellulosic crops, oil-based residues, grasses, organic residues, and lignocellulosic residues.
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Now, apart from trying to make the air cleaner, another reason biorefining is being rapidly adopted is countries’ efforts to reduce their dependence on oil. These days, entire economies are built around the export–import of oil, and its price often decides whether a country grows or not. This is why nations around the world are trying to move away from oil and use alternative fuels, which are not only cleaner, but can be produced locally and cost-effectively. Additionally, with the fast-depleting sources of crude oil and natural gas, their prices are skyrocketing.
Even countries which have vast reserves of oil, such as the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, and the U.S., are stepping up efforts to attain independence from oil, because they know that eventually, they will run out of the ‘liquid gold’. Currently, North America is the largest biorefinery market, as the government has implemented stringent regulations regarding emissions from industries and vehicles. In addition to this, heavy funding is also being poured into the construction of biorefining facilities in the region.
Hence, it is clear that the concept of producing essential stuff from organic materials will keep getting popular, as people wake up to the possibility of a dreadful and polluted future.