Biorefinery pilot plants

A biorefinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and value-added chemicals from biomass feedstocks.

The biorefinery concept is analogous to today's petroleum refinery, which produce multiple fuels and products from petroleum.

Scion has the expertise to support growing global interest in biorefinery processing.

This expertise is based on a long history of research and development for the pulp and paper industry.

Our focus is on developing biorefinery processes to create new products from renewable lignocellulosic (woody) materials. Many of the technologies currently used by the pulping industry will form the basis of future biorefineries.

Scion's biorefinery process.


This diagram shows one example of biorefinery processing to produce bioplastic end products. There are many variations on the process to create different kinds of materials.

The process in this diagram reflects Scion’s research priorities:

  1. Biomass – Lignocellulosic plant material (any plant with a strong stem, which contains lignin and carbohydrates)
  2. Pre-treatment – A process for breaking the plant material into small bits.
  3. Saccharification – A biochemical approach for turning carbohydrates into sugars using enzymes.
  4. Fermentation – Using microbes to convert sugars into a variety of useful substances (e.g. ethanol, butanol, turpenes, etc.), including lignin as a by-product.
  5. Chemical processes – An alternative processing method to create fuel directly from biomass (e.g. gasification).
  6. Biofuels – Examples include liquid transport fuels, including aviation fuels, and chemicals in batteries.
  7. Chemicals and monomers – Creating substitute fuels for diesel, liquid-gas etc.
  8. Polymerisation - Manufacturing processes to create materials from biofuels and chemicals.
  9. Bioplastic products – Creating substitutes for plastic products from a renewable base.

Biorefinery co-products

Co-products available from the pulping process include extractives, lignin and hemicelluloses. Our fibre processing specialists are also contributing to important new developments in biofuel research, producing ethanol from lignocellulosic material.

We plan to demonstrate this process at pilot-scale using the existing lab-scale methods.

Our research and development activities relate to the following key areas:

  • Pre-treatment processing
  • Saccharification
  • Fermentation
  • Modelling (economic, energy and engineering)
  • Lignin isolation

 Contact: Elspeth MacRae