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jueves, 16 de marzo de 2017

Small-Scale Biorefineries - Boosting sustainable use of biomass at local level

Biorefineries are the core of the bioeconomy. They represent the hope of the rural zones, the promise of a sustainable, competitive and knowledge-intensive economy. In a simple way, it is all about producing a wide range of bioproducts (platform chemicals, biofuels, biopolymers, food, nutraceuticals…) from biomass. In this sense, there is much talk about the large biorefinery units and their capacity to promote a significant economic growth and create millions of jobs in rural areas. Also, they can attract innovative high-tech companies specialise in obtaining a range of high-value products from biomass fractions and side-streams coming from the main biorefinery process.

However, small-scale biorefineries have not been given very much attention to date despite the fact that they have the potential to provide economic return at the farm level and to boost local and regional use of the biomass. A smart and integrated process design can beat the advantages of economy of scale applied in large-scale processes and the local re-use of materials allows to minimize costs for recycling and transport.

Last week, as I travelled through the large fields of Castilla y León (very green at this time, by the way), I could envisage biorefineries here and there creating value from biomass and becoming reality the bioeconomy model. I dream of a net of small-scale biorefineries: producing a plethora of bioproducts; revitalizing the farms, the forests and the local rural areas; being a source of innovation and knowledge; based on principles of sustainability and solidarity.
The characteristics of the biorefineries belonging to such net should be the following:
- High flexibility and versatility. Multi-feedstock and multi-product. Capable of adapting to changing necessities.
- High level of integration. With the ability to take advantage of every lateral stream and by-product.
- Rooted in the local communities and the environment.
- Interconnected to each other.

As a first step to fulfill the dream, I would like to offer a platform to promote small-sized biorefinery concepts and highlight their importance for the bioeconomy. Thus, I am launching two complementary initiatives.
1. A new blog section – Small-Scale Biorefineries
The section will cover:
- General definition of the concept.
- List of projects and references.
- Information about events, project calls, organisms and publications.
Currently, very few contents are available but the section will be under constant construction and evolution. It is intended to be an open repository and you can collaborate to build it. If you have some interesting contribution, do not hesitate to contact me via
2. LinkedIn group – Small-Scale Biorefineries
It will be a digital platform where all players can:
- Share news, experiences, projects…
- Build a net of open innovation on small-scale biorefining.
- Look for partners and investment opportunities.

Figure 1. The AMPU (Autonomous Mobile Processing Unit) processes fresh cassava roots (extracted from the web page of DADTCO). Example of small-scale biorefining.

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