Biorefineries are not a new concept; many traditional biomass conversion units such as the sugar, starch or pulp industry are classified as biorefineries, too. The transition to a bio-based economy is expected to bring up more advanced and complex (e.g. multi-platform) biorefinery systems producing both bio-based products and energy carriers in a highly integrated manner.

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. 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

Since the 2010s, a specific focus was put on lignocellulose biorefineries and algae biorefineries. Most often, life cycle assessment and sustainability assessment studies were performed.

In a lignocellulosic biorefinery, biomass in the form of annual and perennial grasses, agricultural residues (e.g., straw, bagasse, husks and shells, corn cobs), wood and woody biomass is converted into a series of products. ifeu has been working on the sustainability assessment of lignocellulosic biorefineries since the late 1990s, before the concept of second generation biofuels even existed. ifeu assesses the development of lignocellulosic biorefineries from the experimental stages to large-scale plants. Ifeu’s expertise helps to optimise the process development from a sustainability perspective, and shows both the disadvantages and risks along with the advantages and opportunities associated with the different concepts.

In the case of algae biorefineries, our analyses have accompanied the expansion and shift in utilisation concepts from lipid-based fuels to chemicals, food supplements as well as food and feed as part of the topic complex of algae and aquaculture for years.

With the eForFuel project (2018-2022), ifeu is for the first time balancing a so-called electrobiorefinery, which represents a technological advancement of biorefineries by adding (bio)electrochemical transformations. This combination of electrochemical and microbial material transformations opens up synergies that can have an impact on the entire process chain.


Guido Reinhardt

PhD Mathematician, Chemist, Biologist
Scientific Director
+49 (0)6221 4767 31

Dr. Heiko Keller

PhD, Dipl. Biochemiker (graduate in biochemistry)
+49 (0)6221 4767 777



13 partners led by coordinator VITO are bringing lignin processing to an industrial scale. The aim is the cost-efficient and sustainable production of lignin-based platform chemicals.


The EU-funded project ēQATOR is developing scalable, electrically heated catalytic reactor technologies for the conversion of biogas to synthesis gas (and further to methanol).

[Translate to English:] Logo des Projektes Enxylascope


The EnXylaScope project aims to discover novel enzymes for debranching xylan, a polymer highly abundant in plants. Production systems will be optimised and the enzymes will be used to produce a range…


Improve Biorefinery Operations through Process Intensification and New End Products

The hemicellulose fraction from side streams of the pulp and biofuel industry is the focus of the EU project. The aim is to purify and process them more efficiently and convert them into sugars that…


What could new sustainable ways of producing diesel and heavy fuel oil look like? What are the new raw materials? Pyromar is about producing “defossilised”, low-sulphur maritime bunker fuels from…


Value added materials from organic waste sugars

Sugar is one of the most essential raw materials for industrial bioprocessing supply chains. The VAMOS project aims to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of producing sugar derived from household…



Unique Refinery Approach to Valorise European Lignocellulosics

The UNRAVEL project aims to develop advanced pre-treatment, separation and conversion technologies for complex lignocellulosic biomass. The technology relies on pre-extraction, fractionation using…

Fuels from electricity (eForFuel)

eForFuel develops an industrial biotechnology solution that uses electricity and microorganisms to convert CO2 into synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, thus providing a sustainable replacement of fossil…


Reliable Bio-based Refinery Intermediates

The four-year project aims at manufacturing intermediate products made from wood-like or stalk-like non-food biomass, e.g. from agricultural residues and perennial grasses, which are suitable for…


COSMOS aims at reducing the dependence on imported coconut and palm kernel oils and fatty acids and on castor oil as sources for medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA, C10–C14) and medium-chain polymer…

D-FACTORY: The Micro-Algae Biorefinery

The research project "The Micro-Algae Biorefinery (D-FACTORY)" aims at developing a concept for a microalgae biorefinery that is used for the sustainable production of Dunaliella algae and its…


The Value Chain from Microalgae to PUFAs: technological, environmental and integrated sustainability assessments

The research project "The Value Chain from Microalgae to PUFA" (PUFAChain) aims at creating a profound scientific and technological basis for the industrial production of high-value products from…

Wissenschaftliche Studie


The project focused on the production of a wide range of products from non-food biomass feedstocks using an innovative Organosolv technology.


The SUPRABIO project researched, developed and demonstrated a toolkit of novel generic processes that can be applied to a range of biorefinery concepts.


The BIOLYFE project improved critical process steps and demonstrated the whole supply chain, from feedstock sourcing via fuel production to product utilisation.