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Biochemical Opportunities in the UK, NNFCC 08-008

This eighty page report analyses a range of bulk and specialty chemical production streams for their potential as UK targets for bio-based chemical development.
Author Nexant ChemSystems
Published 23 Sep 2008
Industry Biobased Products
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The UK petrochemical industry suffers from generally high energy costs, high raw material costs and high labour costs compared to different parts of the world, notably the Middle East with its access to low cost natural gas and China with access to favourable investment costs and low labour costs.

However, the United Kingdom does have a wealth of technology development capability, skills and scientific endeavour, particularly in the biotransformation sector. This is positive, but Government and industry support is also necessary.

Unlike biofuels, there is currently virtually no legislative driver for biochemical process development. However, the examples of France, Italy and Belgium, who have policies encouraging the use of degradable plastic bags, show how incentives could stimulate the bio-based chemicals sector. Given a sustained high oil price and acknowledgement of the need for environmentally acceptable chemicals production, renewable chemicals could emerge in the United Kingdom.

The challenge is finding a process that fits the United Kingdom’s market situation, renewable feedstocks, and technology, while attracting appropriate Government and industry support. For this purpose Nexant carried out a screening analysis from a market and technical perspective to indicate candidate processes for further and more detailed investigation.

Chemicals which appeared attractive to the UK for bio-based development included linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE), succinic/fumaric acid and their conversion to 1,4-butanediol/tetrahydrofuran/γ-butyrolactone, 3-hydroxypropionic acid and conversion to acrylic acid, downstream applications for polylactic acid, methyl methacrylate and polyhydroxyalkanoates using green biotechnology, and propylene glycol and its downstream applications.

A summary project factsheet of this report was also published on 23 September 2008 and is available here.

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