European biorefineries

Environ. Sci. Policy (2013)

Investments in biorefineries for the production of transport fuel and other chemical products are being encouraged to meet emissions reduction targets. However, little is known about the socio-economic implications of the land use and feedstock processing chains associated with these refineries.

Patricia Thornley, of Aston University, UK, and colleagues analysed European biorefinery systems using indigenous wheat straw and softwood to estimate the likely trade, employment and land-use impacts in selected countries. They found that, given feedstock trade potential, it may not be possible to create more than 100 European facilities. New economically viable biorefineries could be a significant source of employment, with job creation per unit of feedstock higher than for biomass power plants. But biorefineries may only contribute 1% of gross domestic product in European Union member states. An increasing number of straw-based facilities could expand the market for straw as a feedstock, with potential diversion of straw from soil incorporation and consequently additional greenhouse gas emissions to keep nutrient levels in agricultural soils.


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Contestabile, M. European biorefineries. Nature Clim Change 4, 87 (2014).

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