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Biorefining clusters final report


The purpose of this study was to investigate how three regions have developed and implemented biorefining, identifying critical success factors, and what useful lessons can be learned from these regions and implemented in Scotland. The report defines biorefining as the conversion of biomass into fuels, chemicals, food, feed and energy (for heat and or power). The regions studied are Champagne-Ardenne in France, the Port of Rotterdam/South West Netherlands and Sarnia in Canada. The presence and strength of the success factors identified was then assessed for Scotland to determine what may be weak and/or missing.


The methodology consisted of a review of background material on each region in terms of feedstocks, RTD infrastructure, active companies and strategies/policies for biorefining; and interviews with stakeholders from each of the three regions.


A number of critical success factors were identified that underpin biorefining in each region: investment; policy support; public sector investment; industrial leadership; a strong research environment to support industrial RTD at all levels from lab through pilot to demo scale; feedstock availability; proximity of supply and value chain players; accessible markets; and available serviced brownfield sites. In comparison to Scotland, two of the regions, Champagne-Ardenne and Sarnia, have invested considerable time and resources (both financial and human) to develop successful biorefinery clusters. It was also found that there are a number of other aspects that Scotland is relatively weak on compared with the other regions. Nevertheless, Scotland has a number of strengths, in particular its RTD capabilities, and opportunities to address weaknesses. The risk is that without significant focus and investment now, opportunity will be lost to other regions, such as Sarnia. The report suggests that Scotland could pursue two options to develop its own biorefining cluster: focus on technology development and validation, exploiting R&D capabilities, which could be extended to niche, small-scale biorefining activities based on specific feedstocks; or pursue large scale biorefining (as with all three regions studied). It is suggested that success of the first option could allow the second option to follow naturally.


The study made a series of recommendations, including: engage with key stakeholders in Scotland to understand and secure commitment to a biorefinery cluster (this includes local government, further and higher education establishments, and industry ); hold more detailed discussions with key stakeholders in the three regions, to look at ways in which best practices can be translated from their regions to Scotland; nurture a dedicated, well supported industrial lead in Scotland; and critically assess the potential for different Scottish feedstocks to be used in a biorefinery (quality, quantity, availability and frequency) and focus on developing a strategy for a small number that offer potential.

Author Optimat
Published Year 2018
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Supporting key sectors
  • Sectors