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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Lignocellulosic Biorefinery

Biomass fuels refers to the use of biological sources (typically plants and waste) for renewable energy. Lignocellulosic biorefinery focuses on the extraction process of lignin and cellulose in the process of creating biological fuels and often biological specialty chemicals as a by-product.

High value by-products include industrial enzymes and pharmaceuticals. An overview of the biorefinery capabilities across different European countries helps to shed light on the market potential of this emerging sector. 

Value Chain Structures that Define European Cellulosic Ethanol

As an agrarian economy, for Kenya, the promise of lignocellulosic biorefinery is the high commercial value addition to agricultural waste. Biomass fuels such as bioethanol are valuable, but, sometimes the specialty chemical by-products have a higher commercial value than the biofuels. This means that agriwaste can be both a renewable energy and biochemicals driver for the Kenyan economy. Germany has already developed a biorefinery roadmap that includes lignocellulosic biorefinery and Kenya can do the same

Although technological production cost and scaling have significantly improved over the past few years, the biggest challenge to effective development of lignocellulosic biorefinery models is a social one. We have not yet developed the effective collaborative behaviours needed to create sustainable agriwaste supply chains. Luckily, the rest of the world currently faces the same challenges which is all the more reason to focus on developing our capabilities so we can compete on a level playing field.

Biofuels 2020: Biorefineries based on lignocellulosic materials

"We also claim that the triumph of 2G technology requires the development of favourable logistics to guarantee biomass supply and make all actors (farmers, investors, industrial entrepreneurs, government, others) aware that success relies on agreement advances."... 

" So the problem is not the amount of biomass but the logistics of procurement. As a consequence of the lack of a well‐defined logistical model, biomass supply represents the main cost in lignocellulosic biofuel production."...

"Today's commercial plants have transport costs up to $75 US/ton, this makes the economics of the technology non‐viable."

The challenges can readily be overcome. For inspiration, see how Roquette's biorefinery facility in Lestrem, France has benefitted the local community. 

Watch "Bio-based Economy - Industrial regeneration and jobs" on YouTube

Roquette currently enjoys €3.3 billion in annual turnover and employs 8,400 people. Imagine how Kenya's economy could transform if we had four local firms each delivering a fraction of this production. Check out Roquette's company website for more information on the industries they service and be inspired to embrace biobased innovation

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