Green light for biofuels

13th Nov 2014

We are bombarded with tips and tricks for living a healthier lifestyle every single day. In recent years we have seen a shift in attitudes from fast food to clean living. Nowadays, it’s chic to eat healthily: kale is our new chips; blueberries our new buns. Our bodies benefit from clean eating, just as petrochemical companies benefit from engaging in cleaner, greener activity.

Recently we have seen a rapid uptake in biofuels. Last year, the global biofuels market was sized at around $98 billion, compared with $16 billion in 2005. Diminishing reserves of finite fossil fuels and global government directives on CO2 emissions are driving the race to find viable sustainable resources.

This ‘clean’ drive and increasing industry competition have spurred a dramatic increase in joint ventures between petrochemical and biofuel production companies. With Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs also touting green expectations, these connections make sense, but how can firms get the most out of these partnerships? Only an optimized biological system will work and this requires an understanding and synergy of the raw material inputs, the biological system (the engineered microbe that converts the raw material to the chosen product) and the process of running the production on a commercially viable scale. Consequently, firms across this whole value chain are stepping up to the challenge.

As the last part of the chain, petrochemical companies are no stranger to collaboration. They are already experts at finding and extracting oil and sharing assets for the development of by-products. Joint ventures with biofuel companies are an extension of this sharing culture, fostering an ideal environment to develop biofuels intellectual property (IP). Modern technology systems can help to ensure streamlined knowledge management is in place and that processes are optimized for the best, fastest results.

As a case in point, bio-production of gas is now getting off the ground and becoming mainstream. Italy is set to be a pioneer,opening its first commercial scale plant making fuel from straw last year. The sky really is the limit, as biofuel company Amyris is powering aeroplaneswith its biofuel, farnesane. The development and optimization of such plants will require knowledge repositories and the ability to work collaboratively. Good holistic approaches to how data is managed and leveraged are a must. ELNs come into their own here, providing an auditable, traceable mechanism for results to be safely stored, boosting data insight opportunities and protecting valuable IP.

The power of green is proving its worth across all walks of life: from the energy humans need to run, to the energy huge companies produce for entire countries to run on. Cleaner living is the future and collaboration is the green light.