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Adhesives Ingredients

Barriers to the Development of Wood Biomass Derived Bioproducts

Pascal Xanthopoulos – Oct 5, 2018

Wood Biomass-derived Bio-productsThe most important barriers towards the development of wood bio-based products market are their high pricing in terms of purchase and the technological barriers that still face many of the related processes.

Bio-based products
are more expensive than their fossil-fuel derived equivalents. This is because of:

 − High feedstock prices, and
 − High capital and operating costs of related production processes

Many of which are still at an R&D, or demonstration level. The low prices of fossil fuels in the last years worsen the situation as they make the use of wood biomass feedstock economically unattractive.

Let's take a look at the major barriers for a sustainable production and market development of bio-based products derived from wood biomass.

Feedstock Related Barriers

The sawmilling sector is a significant source of wood residues which can be exploited for a chemical valorization by:

 − Extraction companies which extract valuable chemicals from sawdust, knots and barks which contain high amounts of extractives
 − Pulp mill-based refineries which convert wood residues to pulp fibers, celluloses, lignin

The material yield of a sawmill is about 65% for softwoods and 45% for hardwoods. The primary processing enterprises (sawmills) are therefore companies that produce a sizable amount of waste and related products. Main by-products generated by sawmills are wood-chips (37% in volume), sawdust (30% in volume), barks (13% in volume), knots/others (20% in volume).

However, the challenges include:

#1. Lack of Sustainable Availability of Resources

The challenge lies in a sustainable and limited availability of resources related products of sawmills for a chemical valorization since they are coveted simultaneously by different sectors, such as:

 − Wood energy/pellets (barks, sawdust)
 − Particleboards (edgings, sawdust), and
 − Compost (barks)

Energy uses have come to replace uses such as materials, while the wood by-products supply did not increase leading to growing tensions over prices.

Lack of Availability of Resources

#2. Growing Demand for High-quality Hardwood Logs

Another key concern is the rising emerging economy consumption of European logs leading to the shutdown of many sawmills in Europe. As a consequence of a growing demand for timber and tighter domestic forest protection laws, China has become the world’s largest importer and processor of logs.

Taking into consideration the past 10 years, about 350 sawmill plants have shut down in Belgium, France and Germany. This is largely due to competition with non-European companies, which are buying high-quality hardwood logs to be exported and processed outside Europe, depriving European sawmills of necessary raw materials.

The consequence of this process of de-industrialization is a potential lack of a sustainable availability of wood biomass for the production of chemicals. The inadequate availability of wood biomass at the required quantity and price throughout the year is a potential challenge for European biorefineries that are being used in the production of wood bio-based products.

 » Continue reading to explore technology and market related barriers in the development of wood biomass-derived products. 

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