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From petrochemical complexes to biorefineries? The past and prospective co-evolution of liquid fuels and chemicals production in the UK

Bennett, S. J. and Pearson, Peter J. G. 2009. From petrochemical complexes to biorefineries? The past and prospective co-evolution of liquid fuels and chemicals production in the UK. Chemical Engineering Research and Design 87 (9) , pp. 1120-1139. 10.1016/j.cherd.2009.02.008

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Abstract

A debate has begun on the potential for renewable raw materials (RRM) to substitute fossil hydrocarbons in synthetic products. A related debate has arisen in the liquidfuels sector with contested proposals for the expansion of biofuels production. A transition to integrated biorefineries as analogues of oil refineries has been advocated, to enable RRM to compete with petroleum and minimise environmental impacts. Transitions between technological systems involve evolutionary processes, in which change emerges from reinforcing feedbacks between different levels of the socio-technical system. The past both shapes the current system and influences and constrains future options and pathways. Thus, over the past half century oil refiners and the associated petrochemical industry have achieved a high level of integration that challenges the competitive development of RRM, for which the full range of necessary technologies and product families are not well established and the commercial and technical risks are high. This paper explores a case study of the transition from coal-based to petrochemical feedstocks in the UK (1921–1967), applying a system dynamics approach to extract and elucidate the key interrelationships between technologies, policy and society. The findings and insights are then used to inform a discussion of scenarios for future biorefinery technologies, with a focus on bio-based chemicals.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biorefinery; Multi-level perspective; Transition pathways; Renewable raw materials; Green chemistry; System dynamics
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0263-8762
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 03:48
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/27211

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