Study shows the status and development potential of the bioeconomy in Europe

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Jukka Kantola, founder and president of the World BioEconomy Forum, gave a lecture on biorefineries and new organic products in Europe at the Wood Industry Summit digital. The industry expert and front man of an active network of bioeconomists explained to the audience that the bioeconomy is currently being perceived more and more because of its potential in tackeling climate change. There is increasing demand for circular economy products from companies as consumer interest increases. As a result, large sums are currently being invested to increase production capacities.

Kantola presented a current study that the forum carried out together with Cepi in order to record the players, products and capacities of this still young and dynamic sector for the first time. This shows, among other things, that the international forest industry in particular is increasingly relying on the bioeconomy. As part of the study, the term “bioeconomy” was first precisely defined in order to then describe three types of biorefineries in more detail, namely those that are based on the production of cellulose, paper or other processes. On this basis, various manufacturable products for various industries - including the energy industry, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics industry and the food sector - could be identified.

In Europe, 139 biorefineries were operating at the time of the survey and 28 were in the planning phase. 84% of the plants already in operation were based on the pulp production process. Around 20% of the planned locations were based on completely new processes. The study also looks at the geographic distribution of the biorefineries and the annual turnover. The turnover amounts to € 2.6 billion for the sites already in operation and € 2.1 billion for the planned plants. In terms of product development, there was a trend towards materials such as coal and packaging, lignin-based chemicals, and biofuels. Based on the study, the World BioEconomy Forum is now also offering various services, such as the “Biorefinery Map”, which will go online in the 4th quarter of 2021. The “Biorefinery Excellence” service is to follow in 2022, which is to provide precise information on product ranges and volumes. “Biorefinery Future” will also provide information on current development trends in the industry.

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