The development of base material production processes for the chemicals sector using biomass addresses a triple objective:

  • use renewable raw materials in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and tackle climate change,
  • contribute to the development of a circular economy,
  • reduce the chemical sector's reliance on oil

While still emerging, the bio-based product market is nonetheless enjoying strong growth, driven by:

  • consumers’ increasing interest in more sustainable consumer goods,
  • the increased efforts of industry and brands to propose 100% bio-PET packaging and 100% bio-nylon textile fibers,
  • the threats of a deficit in the global supply of olefins (propylene and butadiene, in particular) and some highly sought-after aromatics (benzene), encouraging recourse to new raw materials and new production processes.

The production of major olefin-based and oxygenated intermediates (polyols, diacids) and polymers from lignocellulosic biomass is under way. For example, bioethylene and its derivatives (mono-ethylene glycol, in particular), lactic and polylactic acid, 1,4-butanediol, succinic acid and bioisobutanol, which provide access to numerous biobased derivatives, are already produced on a commercial scale.

The challenges for the large-scale deployment of bio-based chemistry concern:

  • production costs relative to oil-based processes,
  • security of access to the resource and the development of supply sectors,
  • the construction of bio-refineries exploiting synergies between various biomass conversions, for example between biofuel production and bioproduct production,
  • the design of chemically recyclable products.

The market also remains heavily dependent on key economic and political factors:

  • oil price changes, likely to promote - or otherwise - the deployment of bio-based intermediate production capacities,
  • the absence, or conversely the introduction, of public and regulatory incentives.

Today, bio-based chemistry is considered to represent a realistic option for producing the majority of the chemicals currently derived from fossil resources, particularly for the manufacture of plastics.

Despite estimated average annual growth rate of 10% through to 2035, bio-based plastics are still only likely to represent 1.7% of plastics produced globally by that time.

Developing chemical intermediate production processes based on renewable raw materials.


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Abdelhakim Koudil

  • Program manager