One aspect of the vision for a comprehensive bioeconomy is the widest possible use of renewable raw materials. This means, not only for energy, but also for material use. As in an oil refinery, the aim of a “biorefinery” is to implement transformation paths that are as wide-ranging as possible, starting from agricultural products and organic wastes, leading all the way to a large variety of chemical compounds.
The platform for Green Transformation and Bioeconomy has set itself the goal of realizing the concept of a biorefinery in the province of Lower Austria. In this way, renewable resources can be better used and the added value can be kept in the region.
Numerous building blocks are already in place in Lower Austria to make this vision a reality:
- Companies in the adhesives industry and at research facilities dealing with the subject of wood (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Wood K+ Competence Center) have already gained experience with the chemistry of lignin.
- IFA-Tulln, a department of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna has collected extensive scientific results on the engineering of enzymes that can be used to break down and materially modify biogenic materials.
- The food company Agrana already has experience with the production of bioethanol from agricultural waste and with the modification of starch for industrial purposes.
- The plastics cluster at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and companies such as Naku and Agrana, have expertise in “plastics” made from renewable raw materials (e.g. polylactic acid, thermoplastic starch).
The network of companies involved in these activities includes companies in the chemical, wood processing and food industries.
The implementation of the vision is currently facing major challenges: There is only a limited amount of agricultural land available and the production of food and feed is sometimes in competition with the energy and material use of the biomass produced. Only a well-coordinated utilization cascade can achieve optimum effectiveness. The same applies to areas used for forestry. In addition, the utilization of these natural areas must be optimized in a way that ensures the biodiversity is also preserved. In addition, it is not always easy to scale up laboratory or pilot plant scale demo projects to industrial scales.