BOSTON – Bio-based material and chemical technologies have reached an inflection point with companies scaling to commercial production levels and growing revenues, according to Lux Research. The leading growth category will be intermediate chemicals like adipic acid and lactic acid, with capacity growing from 2.0 million metric tons (MT) to 4.9 million MT in 2017, while the capacity of bio-derived polymers – currently at 1.1 million MT – will grow 18 percent per year through 2017.

“The basic science of bio-based materials and chemicals has advanced to the point that dozens of chemicals can now be produced from multiple feedstocks, at costs that are competitive with petroleum, at least in theory and at scale,” said Julia Allen, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, Cultivating Capacity for Bio-based Materials and Chemicals through 2017. “As a result, bio-based material and chemical manufacturers continue to expand and diversify into new feedstock types, product types and geographical areas,” she added.

Analysts from Lux Research analyzed 229 sites from 217 companies, and 133 chemicals and classes like succinic acid and polyols in seven main product categories and 22 subcategories. Several findings from the report are listed below.

Specialty chemicals set for boom.

Specialty chemicals like farnesene will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46 percent between now and 2017; companies set to benefit include players like Solazyme and Segetis.

North America to emerge number one.

Today, North America ranks fourth in global capacity, but will become a leader by 2017 as American start-ups like Gevo build plants closer to home. Europe's share of global capacity will drop from 37 percent in 2005 to 14 percent in 2017.

Cellulosic feedstocks struggle.

First-generation sugar/starch feedstocks – such as corn and sugarcane – will remain the dominant bio-based source. Cellulosic feedstocks will grow relatively slowly, and the rise of new sources like bio-oils and waste gas will help lower cellulosics' share from 67 to 27 percent.

To learn more, register for a complimentary webinar, “Taking the Next Step: The Growing Production of Bio-Based Chemical Intermediates Enables New Opportunities,” on March 4 at 11:00 EST.