According to IEA Bioenergy Task 42, ‘biorefining’ is the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable bio-based products (food/feed ingredients, chemicals, materials) and bioenergy (biofuels, power and/or heat). Providing a classification of biorefineries, VDI standard 6310 distinguishes the following biorefinery concepts:
- Sugar biorefineries
- Starch biorefineries
- Vegetable oil and algal lipid biorefineries
- Lignocellulose biorefineries
- Green biorefineries
- Synthesis gas biorefineries
ifeu has been working on the environmental impacts of biorefineries since the 1990s and evaluated dozens of biorefinery concepts for bioenergy (e.g. biodiesel, bioethanol and biogas) but also bio-based products. In the 2010s, a specific focus was put on lignocellulose biorefineries and algae biorefineries. Most often, life cycle assessment and sustainability assessment studies were performed.