India: Attractive Market for Advanced Biorefining

Chempolis Ltd, one of the technology leader providing innovative and sustainable solutions for biomass, paper, biofuel, sugar and chemical industries, has announced to start up its first biorefinery in India by the end of 2013. ChempolisĘs core products are the two patented third generation technologies for biorefining of non-food biomasses: formicobio™ for the co-production of advanced biofuels, biosugars, platform biochemicals and biocoal, and formicofib™ for the co-production of papermaking fibers (ie, pulp), platform biochemicals and biocoal.

In an exclusive interaction with CEW, Pasi Rousu, President, Chempolis Asia & Pacific, reveals that the fundamentals of driving forces for advanced biorefining have remained the same: depletion of oil resources and increased oil price, mitigation of CO2 emissions and climate change, and reduction of dependence on imported oil and petroleum products.

"In addition, recently governments around the world (including India) have made strong mandates for increasing the consumption of biofuels, especially the biofuels produced in a sustainable way. Such mandates and related incentives are promoting the expansion of biorefining," Rousu added.

USA is the leading country in this field. Rousu commented that other markets such as Brazil, EU, and India are growing strongly as well. Other Asian countries are interesting emerging markets, too. Contrary to prevalent perception about the industry, Rousu is of opinion that biorefining is not in nascent stage. "If biorefining means converting biomass into fuels, chemicals, and other valueadded products, we are already talking about major, established industries. For example, global annual production of 1G biofuels for transportation is around 100 million tonnes and production of pulp for papermaking is almost 200 million tonnes," he argued. However, he agreed that when it comes to production of biofuels and chemicals from cellulosic biomasses, there is not much happening around.

Rousu acknowledged that such industry is still in nascent stage. The first production facilities are being built and brought on-line in USA and EU, but the progress has been slower than expected few years ago. Governments have created certain incentives for such production, but the support should be clearly stronger, because advanced biorefining is an essential tool for sustainable development and at the current stage industry needs support to establish first production facilities.

The main challenge for advanced biorefining is to establish first reference projects of commercial production, he added. However, India has several advantages and it certainly can be at the forefront of biorefining. Rousu highlighted, "Indian companies already have a tradition to utilise residual biomass from agriculture, especially combustion of sugarcane bagasse and production of electricity. The country also has existing production of ethanol and related infrastructure. Indian agriculture produces huge volumes of residues that are largely not utilised."

Commenting on Chempolis's plan in India, Rousu said that the country is very attractive market for advanced biorefining. Compared to current use of cellulosic biomasses, biorefining multiplies the revenues and creates totally new businesses. He provided some more insight into the current plan and added that the organisation is negotiating for establishing a commercialscale biorefinery projects in India in co-operation with leading Indian companies from sugar, oil and petrochemical industries.

Feasible locations are especially in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana. "The size of biorefinery can be adjusted based on the raw material availability starting from 100 000 tonnes of biomass (on annual dry basis). A biorefinery of that size would produce approximately 25 000 tonnes of cellulosic ethanol and biochemicals per year. In addition, over 50 000 tpabiocoal would be co-produced. Biorefinery will directly employ 150 people. Indirectly the biomass value chain may influence positively on income of thousands of people. It is important to realise that currently India is importing petroleum but when using 3G biorefining technology for the production of biofuels and chemicals, this currency would remain in India for the benefit of Indian people," he revealed.

Chempolis aims at delivering its technology in co-operation with leading Indian industry suppliers. Products of biorefinery would be sold by investors using normal distribution channels.

Rousu further shared some more insight into Chempolis' 3rd generation biorefining technology, which is based on selective fractionation of biomass and co-production of multiple products in a sustainable way and said, "The technology is not just for the production of biofuels (eg, ethanol), but the produced sugars and lignin can be used as a platform into a myriad of different products. Since India is targeting at increased use of biofuels in transportation and the country has a strong chemical industry, Chempolis sees India as a very attractive market that offers opportunities for substantial growth."

This innovative technology is cost competent and offers economically attractive opportunity for advanced biorefining. Shale gas can be a cheap feedstock at its production site, but transportation and related infrastructure easily multiplies its price.

India is a potential market for the development of biorefining. According to Rousu, "Recent changes in government regulations will be boosting setting up biorefineries in India. As our solution is combining all sustainability components; economic, environment and social we are confident the first projects will be established this year. Industry is ready and willing to move onwards."