Plants for Chemicals

Plants have the ability to capture solar energy and use carbon dioxide and water to photosynthesise carbohydrate during their growth. Crop plants, therefore, offer an opportunity to establish a sustainable chemical manufacturing system based on plant biomass.

Fossil reserves are finite and the major proven reserves of oil and gas are located in politically unstable environments, whilst new oil findings are increasingly being located in difficult-to-reach places. Issues relating to security and cost of supply will become increasingly important to future chemical markets dependent upon petrochemical feedstocks.


Sustainable Manufacturing Technologies

The move towards a bio-based society using renewable feedstocks from agriculture, forestry and aquatic resources will be important to develop sustainable manufacturing technologies in the coming century.



Biofuels and Bioproducts

The use of plant biomass as a feedstock holds significant potential in the emerging renewable chemical industry. Conversion of plant-based raw materials via fermentation or microbiological routes can be used to generate bioproducts such as ethanol, butanol, lactic acid, succinic acid and propanediol.



Thermochemical technologies are also available for the conversion of biomass to syngas (mainly CO and H2), which can then be catalytically converted to larger, more useful liquid hydrocarbons - more than 200 fuel and chemical products can be produced from syngas.

Lignin contained in plant biomass also represents a potential feedstock for aromatic chemicals production.


Other Resources

Previous analyses published by the  BREW project, under the European Commission GROW's programme, and the US Department for Energy (DoE) have identified a short-list of platform chemicals derived from biomass with potential in the chemical and material industries:

Examples of UK activities:

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KTN's Plant Sector Publications

KTN's Plant Sector has developed a series of publications to highlight the economic benefit of research and development to the agriculture and food industry. 


New forage varieties for the sustainable intensification of the livestock agriculture

April 2011


Analysis of the economic impact of plants breeding in the UK

April 2011


Analysis of the impact of crop protection chemistry on agricultural production

May 2011


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