Exponential Growth, Increasing Demand

Study predicts significant growth in the biobased chemicals industry
By Erin Voegele | December 28, 2010

A recent study conducted by SBI Energy predicts that the renewable chemical industry will grow to $7 billion by 2015, more than doubling the expected $3 billion market value for 2011. SBI Energy attributes this increase to steady growth in the two largest biorenewable chemical markets, the platform and intermediate biorenewable chemicals sectors, as well as key regulatory and research developments.

According to SBI Energy, platform biorenewable chemicals will continue to represent approximately two-thirds of the market over the next five years, with glycerin and lactic acid continuing to dominate the sector. The company also predicts that intermediate biorenewable chemicals will grow at an even stronger rate. SBI states that bioethylene will be the largest intermediate biochemical in the space. However, due to its significantly higher production cost, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) will represent the most revenue in the sector. In the next five years, the study predicts that annual production of polylactide (PLA) will double, the production of 1,3 propanediol will triple, and the production of PHA will quadruple.

The study also shows that the U.S. and European Union were the top two markets for biobased renewable chemicals in 2009, with a respective 22 percent and 19 percent of product sales. While both regions are described as top markets for nearly all types of biochemicals, larger sales of biobased polymers allowed the U.S. to claim leadership in the industry. SBI Energy states that China continues to be a strong market for glycerin and lactic acid, but notes that the country hasn’t yet become a strong contender for other biochemical segments, such as biobased polymers. 

—Erin Voegele