We all agree that should be incorporated new measures that allows us to fight against the climate change, to finance R&D projects related with it and to improve the relationship between Spain and other countries from the European Union (EU), which enhance the capabilities and the available resources. This would allow a politic and economic growth of Spain, and so a transformation to a sustainable industry sector and a competent environment. What If I told you that the key word to make it is “biorefinery”?
First, what is exactly a biorefinery? A biorefinery is an installation that takes as goal the biomass processing to get a wide spectrum of bioproducts (fertilizers, feed, monomers, resins, etc.) and/or bioenergy by this we mean, biofuels, biogas and bioelectricity that can be useful to associated companies. This installation requires to integrate different process and technologies, and it has been pointed out by the EU as one of the most promising proposals to improve the current bioeconomy. Besides, it is pointed out that Spain could become in an important niche to the development of this industries.
Why now? Biorefineries came up mainly to replace the potentially polluting fossil resources by others of a renewable nature, known as biomass. In addition, recently, the European Commission (EC) has presented strategies and policy directives that try to redirect the current bioeconomy to a sustainable one, highlighting that this would require the emergence of new biorefineries because not only are able to establish a powerful market network between different companies, but also allows creating new jobs and improve the country’s economy where the biorefinery is installed, complying of course, the purposes of environmental care, by reducing the use of fossil resources.
And in all this, Spain has a golden opportunity to set up biorefineries. We give you the reasons and how this would change bioeconomy’s country:
- Spain counts with a great availability and variety of biomass resources, some of them undervalued, which is an advantage for the biorefinery’s installation. This would improve the management of these biological resources, by which can be fuelled and supplied a great peninsular territory . The main ones are: crops (herbaceous, woody and algae) and agricultural, forest, livestock, industrial and domestic waste.
- Biorefineries could reindustrialize the country. This would improve Spain’s economy and increase competitiveness among companies, which would force to continue innovating in the business. In consequence, new jobs would be generated and there would be a increase on I+D funding.
- The population growth reflects in the current bioeconomy an increment in energy demand and bioproducts, which could be supplied thanks to the installation of biorefineries.
- Spain would participate in an environmental care initiative supported by multiple initiatives and political strategies of the EC, which would place it in a better political position. Some political initiatives, such as the «Biobased Industries Consortium«, foresees a financing of 1,000 million euros by 2020 for I+D projects that are developed by consortiums of companies and research centres.
- It would help to reduce the use of fossils resources.
- Territorial advantage: Valladolid has been chosen as one of the six best regions in Europe for set up a biorefinery.
What would we need to set up a biorefinery in Spain?
- Divulgation of its importance by the founders and associated companies, public or private, to locate new companies to which they can be associated.
- Have a clear concept about the biorefinery we want to set up, so we can present a model that can reach a pilot scale.
- Achieve a commercial implementation of the biorefineries: for this it would be necessary a reduction of the associated costs and efficiency’s increment of the conversions to bioenergy and bioproducts.
- Modification of certain public policies. A public incentive strategy for the integral use of biomass is required.
Biorefinery in Spain
In Spain there is a strong interest in biorefineries, and it already exists entities making I+D projects in this ambit. As its something recent, we found mainly projects, some of them are currently in a pilot scale. Among them we can find CLAMBER project (Castilla-La Mancha Bio-Economy Region), «BIOTABACUM» (Murcia), Biorefinery project in Navarra (Navarra), Production of energy-value lipids with microalgae with industrial CO2 (Madrid), FRACBIOFUEL (Valladolid), etc.
Nowadays we also can find companies working with biorefinery concept, like AVEBIOM. This company use pellet, bones of olives and chips as biomass to produce bioenergy which sells to another companies and organizations associated. In addition, AVEBIOM collaborate with other companies (BIOMASS COUNTS, Sabadell y Todos Biomasa) and thay have a website where there’s an estimation about biomass setor data.
Another company is Neol Biosolution, a biorefinery located in Granada, worldwide pioneer, which values agricultural and industrial residues to produce oleochemicals, bioenergy, bioproducts such as omega-3 and bioplastic.
Currently, there are installations that are being used as biorefineries. For instance, in Barcelona, a pilot plant has been associated with the wastewater treatment of Manresa-Sant Joan, which generates value-added products (bioplastic)simultaneously with the purification of wastewater. This could be applicable to other wastewater integration platform.
In other companies, like AINIA, where meetings are held to discuss biorefineries and the bioeconomy that this sector intends to originate and also collaborate with other biorefinery projects.
In short, Spain has the chance to take advantage of certain competitive advantages linked to the development of the bioeconomy, the existing multidisciplinary knowledge, its climatology, the biomass it possesses, among other reasons. This position is considered strategic, especially considering its current situation of external energy dependence and as an incentive to offer new opportunities to the rural and industrial world.
How near is the day when the biomass take over in their place to the non renewable energies?
Suschem-es.org. (2018). [online] Available at: http://www.suschem-es.org/docum/pb/2017/publicaciones/Manual_de_Biorrefinerias_en_Espana_feb_2017.pdf [Accessed 10 Mar. 2018].