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Biochimie. 2009 Jun;91(6):659-64. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2009.03.015. Epub 2009 Mar 28.

Biorefinery: Toward an industrial metabolism.

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  • 1UMR CNRS Génie Enzymatique et Cellulaire, Université de Technologie de Compiègne, Centre de Recherche de Royallieu, France.


Fossil fuel reserves are running out, global warming is becoming a reality, waste recycling is becoming ever more costly and problematic, and unrelenting population growth will require more and more energy and consumer products. There is now an alternative to the 100% oil economy; it is a renewable resource based on agroresources by using the whole plant. Production and development of these new products are based on biorefinery concept. Each constituent of the plant can be extracted and functionalized in order to produce non-food and food fractions, intermediate agro-industrial products and synthons. Three major industrial domains can be concerned: molecules, materials and energy. Molecules can be used as solvent surfactants or chemical intermediates in substitution of petrol derivatives. Fibers can be valorized in materials like composites. Sugars and oils are currently used to produce biofuels like bioethanol or biodiesel, but second-generation biofuels will use lignocellulosic biomass as raw material. Lipids can be used to produce a large diversity of products like solvent, lubricants, pastes or surfactants. Industrial biorefinery will be linked to the creation of new processes based on the twelve principles of green chemistry (clean processes, atom economy, renewable feedstocks...). Biotechnology, especially white biotechnology, will take a major part into these new processes with biotransformations (enzymology, micro-organisms...) and fermentation. The substitution of oil products by biobased products will develop a new bioeconomy and new industrial processes respecting the sustainable development concept. Industrial biorefinery can be developed on the principle that any residues of one can then be exploited as raw material by others in an industrial metabolism.

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