Biorefining involves the integrated processing of renewable feedstocks into a spectrum of marketable products: food, feed, fuels, chemicals, heat and power, making full use of the potential of biomass. Biorefining fractionates biomass into a range of separated products using biological, (bio)chemical, physical and/or thermo-chemical separation and processing into products. The combined production of speciality chemicals alongside fuels, heat and power is seen as a crucial factor to achieve cost-competitiveness.


The choice and development of technology for biorefinery developers ​is linked to the type of feedstock chosen and outputs desired. These technologies include bioprocessing such as microbial fermentation, biocatalysis (enzymes), and anaerobic digestion, and thermochemical processes such as gasification and pyrolyisis. Key focus areas for R&D are currently around accessing the sugars present in lignocellulose, utilising lignin, and extracting value from wastes and agri-food residues, aiming to make full use of bio resources available sustainably. NNFCC have worked with many organisations to realise the potential of biomass, providing techno-economic analyses of biorefining technologies linked to available resources.

Industrial Symbiosis  

Industrial symbiosis is the practice of re-using by-products ​from one process as an input to another. The integration of biorefining alongside the existing industrial infrastructure in the sector of energy and chemical provision is a challenge, but it can optimise supply chains particularly for bio-feedstocks which requires speciality transport and storage, by sharing resources, infrastructure, storage ​facilities, transport, collection, and storage of feedstocks. NNFCC have worked with a number of bio-clusters to develop industrial symbiosis across the UK.

Could your industry benefit from utilising biorefining?

In Europe, the sugar beet industry are leading the biorefining sector, as an established industry, yet continuously innovating to achieve higher value from its feedstock. The sugar beet sector looks set to continue to grow, following the abolition of the EU sugar beet quotas from 2017 onwards, which should increase the availability of cheap sugars. Many other industries are ​investigating and developing opportunities offered by biorefining by adapting their current business models to make full use of their bio resources. These include the pulp and paper industries, food and drinks processors, animal feed producers, and bioethanol producers. To find out if your operations could benefit from biorefining, get in touch. 

NNFCC Projects

NNFCC has worked closely with the International Energy agency to develop the biorefinery sector, participating to the Bioenergy Task 42 working group. The NNFCC is also heavily involved in helping to commercialise value chains and clean technology through its participation to the EU funded projects BioBase4SME and SuperBIO. 

NNFCC has also worked on many other projects in biorefining sector, including: 

For reports and our monthly review of news from the biorefining sector, see our publications store.