An ever increasing world population is steadily depleting oil reserves. The bio-product industry is growing rapidly with the increased use and demand of bio-based chemicals. This progress is largely due to strong markets for biodiesel, and the use of glycerin as feedstock.
There is little doubt that the Biobased chemicals industry has reached a critical point in its development. Consider some of the statistics released by BIO, the largest biotechnology trade association in the world. There are roughly 2,000 companies in the United States currently which either make or distribute almost 20,000 bio-based products. These include ‘green’ (environmentally safe) products, as well as materials for industrial and consumer applications.
But unless the Government signs a clear policy to disband the oil industry, the nation might he headed for a crisis. There is a critical need for a well-defined national energy policy, which includes the use of bio-based products.
The planet’s population is growing rapidly, and by the year 2050 is expected to reach 9.5 billion, 2 billion more than it is today. This puts additional pressure on rapidly depleting oil reserves, which is neither affordable nor sustainable. Concentrating on the bio-products industry is the quickest way to create a more sustainable society. Simultaneously, the capacity of the United States to harness its agricultural strength, and its industrial innovation and leadership, creates a potential to significantly drive local economic development by stimulating job growth and possibly correcting the balance of trade in this sector.
In the short term, biopolymers and lactic acid are poised for sustained growth throughout the next decade. These will ensure a stable market growth until 2021. Across the board, market growth will depend largely on sustained use of biodiesel for a regular production of glycerin and newer glycerin-based chemicals. Research in these fields is likely to drive the bio-based chemical market to reach $12.2 billion by year 2021, which will account for 25.4 billion pounds of production of bio-based chemicals by the end of the decade.
Stabilization of glycerin prices has ensured sustained growth in the last two years. The market in 2011 was $3.6 billion, of which just over two-thirds by value comprised of lactic acid and glycerin. It is anticipated that this market will diminish to 53% by 2021 as emerging markets of bio-based epichlorohydrin (ECH) and poly ethylene (PE) reach a ten-fold growth over the decade.
Strong markets for biodiesel in Europe, Asia and South America have guaranteed abundant stocks of global crude glycerin during the past few years. Glycerin prices witnessed an astounding slump in 2009, but have since recovered and remained stable. The steady affordable price are stimulating the development of new intermediate chemicals, such as propylene glycol (PG), methanol and ECH; all of which use glycerin as feedstock. The continued success of these market segments depends largely on a sustained supply of affordable glycerin.
To underpin this continuous growth, investing in bio-based manufacturing must be encouraged with the offer of rewards like credits and enhancements.