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Living in bio society

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I contributed this article on the bio-economy to Directions 10, published by Salterbaxter

I contributed this article on the bio-economy to Directions 10, published by Salterbaxter

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    Living in bio society Living in bio society Document Transcript

    • CITIES IN FOCUSContinued Living in a bio-society Imagine a Books have been written about it. movies made. we are to sustainability. As a recent report from wwF Denmark take products such as corn cobs, sugar, wood waste and world where addicted to oil. But if we are to states: methane and convert them create sustainable cities and ‘IF wE DO NOT RADICALLY ALTER into all kinds of useful cars are fuelled a sustainable society for the THE SYSTEm AND CONSTRUCT products, from ethanol (for future, we need to urgently A 21ST CENTURY GREENby sugar, homes shift away from this oil- ECONOmY wE ARE LIKELY TO fuel), to proteins (for animal feed), to consumable oils and powered by dependent society towards a ‘bio-based society’. REDUCE THE PROBLEm BUT NOT SOLvE IT ENTIRELY.’ compounds (for use in paints, solvents and bio-based corn and cities First we must acknowledge So what is the solution? The plastics). many of the things that are made from run on waste. the scale of the problem. headline finding from the hydrocarbons today will Petroleum is most visible in wwF report entitled ‘Industrial Welcome to the the tanks of our vehicles, but Biotechnology: more than essentially be made from carbohydrates in the future. bio-society. it is literally everywhere. There aren’t many products you can Green Fuel in a Dirty Economy?’ is that biotechnology is a big The wwF report describes buy today that don’t have part of the answer. It has the four interlinked steps on petroleum in them or used potential to save the planet biotechnologies’ path to petroleum to make them. From up to 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 a low-carbon, bio-based the computer I’m using to type emissions per year by 2030. economy: this to the paper you’re reading That’s more than Germany’s 1. ImPROvED EFFICIENCY it on, petroleum is everywhere. total reported emissions 2. SwITCHING TO BIOFUELS Part of the answer in the short in 1990. 3. REPLACING term is simply to use less of it; PETROCHEmICALS wITH At the centre of the innovation to be more efficient. But BIO-BASED mATERIALS is the biorefinery. Like a new efficiency alone won’t get us type of industrial village, it will 4. CLOSING THE LOOP22  DIreCtIONs 2010  salterbaxter
    • NATHAN SCHoCK PR Director POETEach step presents a they will also produce feed, speciality proteins, oils around 300 gallons ofmonumental challenge, but speciality proteins, oils and used to produce biodiesel and bioethanol. Today, thebiotechnology is chipping away compounds for use in paints, even edible fibre. The biogenic productive fields around ourat every one of them. Let’s take solvents and bio-based CO2 is captured, liquefied and biorefineries produce morea closer look at progress. plastics. used for beverage carbonation, than 600 gallons per acre. municipal water treatment and with the ability to produceImproved efficiency Closing the loop other applications. bioethanol from the crop wasteBiotechnology has made the Biorefineries are working to coupled with increasing grainproduction of crops more close the loop and eliminate The second feedstock that yields, it will eclipse 1,000efficient, requiring less land waste in a number of ways. comes into the biorefinery is gallons per acre in the nearand less energy. Combined One model has a biorefinery the plant residue – corn cobs, future. All the while using thewith efficiency gains at the adjacent to an animal feedlot leaves and husks. The cellulose nutritious part of the kernel tobiorefinery, it has made the so that the animal waste can is extracted from those produce edible food and theproduction of biofuels more be converted to biogas to power materials and used to produce leftovers from the crop wasteefficient. 30 years ago it took the plant; and the grains left cellulosic bioethanol. The to power the biorefinery.more energy to produce a over from ethanol production leftovers are fed to an anaerobicgallon of bioethanol than the can feed the animals. Our digester that produces biogas The wwF biotechnologyenergy it contained. Today, engineers have developed a power. Finally, we are report cites a 2008 Unitedit’s more than a 2–1 gain. system to close the loop on researching the use of the ash Nations Food and AgricultureBioethanol from waste water, recycling water from the anaerobic digester as Organisation (FAO) studyproducts, which is being throughout the biorefinery an application that could be identifying an additionalproduced at small scale today, so that there is no discharge. used to increase the soil carbon two billion hectares thatcan be more than a 7–1 net One of our bioethanol plants of the surrounding fields. “are considered potentiallyenergy gain. is powered by burning waste suitable for rain fed crop Some of the early criticisms of wood and landfill gas. Three production”. That presentsSwitching to biofuels bioethanol have been the vast others use co-generation. a vast opportunity for amount of land it takes to growOne of the fastest growing industrial biotechnology and To see all of these steps the feedstock and the use ofsources of energy in the world the biorefinery. Biotechnology occurring in one biorefinery, food crops to produce the fuel.is biofuels. Today, bioethanol may still be in its infancy in I would invite you to come to Today’s bioethanol productionmakes up nearly 10% of the 2010, but if the current pace our research centre in is addressing those issues bygasoline in American vehicles, of innovation continues it Scotland, South Dakota. This being more efficient with theand in Brazil it’s about half. will undoubtedly be a little community provides the land and the feedstock. TenThe US Energy Information fundamental building block in corn and corn cobs that the years ago, an acre of corn wasAdministration (EIA) predicts the creation of a low-carbon, plant converts to ten million only capable of producingthat global use of petroleum- sustainable future.based liquid fuels will be flat gallons of bioethanol each year.over the next 15 years because In return, the community gets bIOrefINerybiofuels will account for all of a local, sustainable market forthe three million barrel per day their commodities and uses the Corn cobs, wood waste distiller’s grains left over from and methane convertedexpansion in liquid fuel use. into fuel, animal feedBut, as the wwF report notes, bioethanol production to feed and bio-based productsbioethanol production provides their animals.the platform for the next step. But what makes this biorefineryReplacing unique is its productionpetrochemicals with process, where very little is wasted. First, let’s take thebio-based materials corn grain, which can roughlyExisting bioethanol plants are be divided into thirds: starch,platforms upon which true protein (the fibre, fat andbiorefineries of the future will micronutrients) and carbonbe built. In addition to the dioxide. At this plant, the starchbioethanol, food and animal is used to produce bioethanol.feed they are producing today, From the protein comes animal salterbaxter  DIreCtIONs 2010   23