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Published: 07 July 2015

Surrey’s Centre for Environmental Strategy leads Mexico-UK bilateral research workshop on Biorefinery

The Mexico-UK Biorefinery Workshop identified key research and development areas for a sustainable bioeconomy, over a week-long workshop in May 2015.

Dr Jhuma Sadhukhan of the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environmental Strategy was the UK Coordinator for the Mexico-UK Biorefinery Research Workshop. The Organizing Committee consisted of Surrey’s Dr Jhuma Sadhukhan, Dr Elias Martinez Hernandez (now in the University of Oxford) and Dr Kok Siew Ng. Professor Richard Murphy, Dr Mairi Black and Dr Madeline Bussemaker also attended and presented at the event, which took place at the Instituto Mexicano del Petróleo in Mexico City.

The event provided opportunities for the exchange of ideas, contacts and expertise between the 60 participants from industrial, academic and government bodies from both countries. The workshop covered the following areas in depth: recent advances in biorefinery technologies; biomass including waste stocks in the two nations and also important ones world-wide; industrial biorefinery activities; process integration; sustainability analysis and circular economy. The event comprehensively captured the perspectives of early career as well as expert researchers and made the following recommendations for a sustainable bioeconomy.

  1. Process Integration must drive the development of biorefineries for elegant, complex and optimal designs and efficient operations within sustainability constraints.
  2. A biorefinery as to resemble with crude oil refinery must involve extensive extraction of value added products from every fraction of biomass by cost-optimal and integrated unit operations. This process integration research is distinct from a bioprocess or biotechnology research.
  3. The economy of the biorefinery is to be enhanced by polygeneration that can in turn mitigate the climate change impact and benefit the society.
  4. Life Cycle Sustainability must be assessed to approve a design.
  5. Biofuel production should not be conflicted with non-fuel added-value uses of plant / agricultural / forestry biomass, especially where there are markets for healthcare and food products.

“The Mexico Biorefinery Workshop in May 2015 was a unique experience, one of few allowing such an in-depth viewpoint into the development of the biorefinery concept in a country very different from the UK.” – Said Dr Kenneth O’Callaghan of DEFRA.

With 2015 designated as a year to celebrate collaboration between the two countries by the UK government, the workshop practically demonstrated the importance of the exchange of research practices and approaches to industry development.

The event was supported by the Council of Science and Technology of Mexico and the British Council’s Researchers Links programme.

The full text of Dr Sadhukhan’s report can be downloaded here.