Industrial bioconversion of renewable resources as an alternative to conventional chemistry
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There are numerous possibilities for replacing chemical techniques with biotechnological methods based on renewable resources. The potential of biotechnology (products, technologies, metabolic pathways) is for the most part well known. Often the costs are still the problem. Biotechnological advances have the best chances for replacing some fine chemicals. While the raw material costs are less of a consideration here, the environmental benefit is huge, as chemical-technical processes often produce a wide range of undesirable/harmful by-products or waste. In the case of bulk chemicals (<US $1/kg) the product price is affected mainly by raw material costs. As long as fossil raw materials are still relatively inexpensive, alternatives based on renewable resources cannot establish themselves. Residues and waste, which are available even at no cost in some cases, are an exception. The introduction of new technologies for the efficient use of such raw materials is currently being promoted. The utilisation of residual wood, plant parts, waste fat, and crude glycerol, for example, provides great potential. For industrial chemicals (US $2–4/kg), process and recovery costs play a greater role. Here, innovative production technologies and product recovery techniques (e.g. on-line product separation) can increase competitiveness.