A biorefinery transforms biomass derived from renewable raw materials into a wide range of commodities by the means of advanced biotechnological processes such as enzymatic hydrolysis.
The biomass comes from a variety of sources such as trees, energy crops such as switchgrass and agricultural products such as grain, maize and waste products such as municipal waste.
Biorefineries can produce commodities such as bioethanol, bioplastics, biochemicals and ingredients for the food and feed industry. In this sense, biorefineries can be compared to today's petroleum refineries with the important distinction that biorefineries are based on the use renewable materials as feedstock whereas today’s petroleum refineries are based on the use of non-renewable materials such as fossil fuels. Accordingly, biorefineries are more sustainable than petroleum refineries and can increase the sustainability of industrial production. Biorefineries exploit all elements of biomass and recycle secondary products and wastes of the reaction via further processing into valuable products or as input or energy in the process.
Industrial biorefineries have been identified as the most promising route to the creation of a new domestic biobased industry.
More information onBiorefinery on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL - US Government)
Biorefinery on wikipedia