Connecting the oil, biorefining industries in Houston

For those who don't recognize how big the biorefining industry will be in just a few short years, here are some items to consider.
By Ron Kotrba | July 14, 2011

Biorefining Magazine is coming to Houston, the epicenter of the oil—and more and more the biorefining—industry, Sept. 14-16 for the International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show.

Oil, gas and chemical refiners know their future lies in diversifying feedstock portfolios away from crude petroleum and into renewables, evidenced by the high volume of activity the oil majors are taking in biorefining investment, research, project development and scale-up.

The conference’s general session, titled Oil Industry Perspectives on Biorefining, will discuss this very topic.

If you’re an oil person, you’ll want to be there to learn about the latest trends in biorefining and find out what your oil competitors are doing in this space.

For biorefiners, Houston is becoming the place to be for your peers, as we find more biorefining companies headquartered in Houston than anywhere else. Also, shake hands and network with those in the oil business who may just be waiting for the right opportunity to come along.

And investors, this is your chance to vet those companies you’ve been hearing so much about, in person, to make informed decisions on where your money should go in this sector.

This is the time to get into advanced biorefining, while it’s young. Get in on the ground floor. For those who do not, or will not, recognize how big of a role advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals will play in our future, here are a few things to consider.

In the U.S. alone, RFS2 mandates 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, and only 15 billion of that will likely come from corn ethanol. Up to a few billion gallons of that will also be methyl ester biodiesel, maybe more. This leaves roughly 20 billion gallons of advanced renewable fuels to be refined in just more than 10 years. That’s essentially the build-out of an industry the size and production capacity of the U.S. corn ethanol industry in a decade, which took upwards of 35 years for gen-one ethanol. And it’s not only going to be cellulosic ethanol contributing to these markets. In fact, cellulosic ethanol capacity in 2022 may be a gross minority when positioned next to the other advanced biofuels—biojet, renewable diesel, green gasoline, various butanols—which are trending toward rapid development. And this only considers the U.S. mandated market.

Virtually every region of the world will have advanced biofuel agendas, mandates or incentives. To fly into Europe in the future, planes will have to fuel up on blends of biojet to hit greenhouse gas reductions. The jet fuel market is huge.

Biocrude from companies like KiOR and several others is a no-brainer replacement or supplement to crude petroleum that can be run through the existing refining industry.

I haven’t even begun to mention chemicals markets, which are ready for the biorefining picking as consumer demand continues to push for green, sustainable chemistry in everyday products and packages.