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Establishing bio-based production chains

October 7, 2014, Wageningen University - Commissioned by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research has developed a method that can help companies and government authorities create bio-based chains, from source materials to end products.


October 7, 2014
By Wageningen University

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October 7, 2014, Wageningen University – Commissioned by the
Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research
has developed a method that can help companies and government authorities
create bio-based chains, from source materials to end products.

 

According to senior scientist Wolter Elbersen at the Institute
for Food & Biobased Research, the method is mainly intended for businesses
and investors looking to establish a bio-based production chain locally, or for
export to the Netherlands or other EU countries. “They often have trouble
evaluating whether developing a bio-based production or export chain is
feasible or how it can be done commercially,” says Elbersen. “This method
provides an insight into which factors are at play.”

 

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Step-by-step plan

 

The method can be described as a step-by-step plan for the
development of a bio-based export chain. Firstly, it includes a classification
of the various types of biomass. Scientist Jan van Dam at Food & Bio-based
Research explains that an analysis was made of which crops and products are
most suitable, and how market demands are expected to develop. “We then
described how businesses or investors can use a SWOT analysis to evaluate
whether a local crop is a good starting point for the development of a bio-based
trade chain. This includes factors such as the availability of the crop and the
infrastructure, security of supplies, costs and the degree to which the source
material can be produced in a sustainable way.”

 

Finally, the method offers a list of criteria for
determining the most suitable location for converting the source material into
tradable products. It deals with questions such as which country has the best
infrastructure and the most educated employees? Which location offers the
lowest operational costs and the best logistics? And where do the co-products
or by-products have the most value? This involves issues such as heat for
heating networks, CO2 for CO2 fertilization or lignin for new chemical
products.

 

Analysis of five export chains

 

The method was used in the Ukraine, a country that is
currently facing many challenges but which has considerable potential when it
comes to biomass source materials. Van Dam: “We analyzed five bio-based export
chains in the Ukraine, including a chain for producing polylactic acid from
maize, which can then be used in various bio-based plastics, chemicals or
fuels. Another example is the chain for the production of bio-ethanol and bio-based
polyethylene from sugar beet.”

 

Well-founded choices

 

The analyses showed that it may be cheaper to convert crops
into bio-based bulk products in the Ukraine itself, but that the Netherlands
achieves better marks for issues such as market demand, supply security,
infrastructure and logistics. In addition, the analyses showed that more value
can be created from by-products in the Netherlands.

 

 The Netherlands
Enterprise Agency (RVO) financed the project as part of the Netherlands
Programma Sustainable Biomass.


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