While organic chemistry based on renewable natural resources had been the main focus until the early 20’st century, the attention quickly shifted towards coal in the early 1900’s and by the 1930’s petroleum, due to its abundance and low cost, had become the raw material of main interest for the chemical industry in general. Today, chemistry based on petroleum is well understood and the petrochemical industry is a well geared machine.
However, an abundance of studies estimate that we will reach petroleum depletion by the end of the present century and see a significant shortage and significant increase in crude costs as early as 2040. Today, half a century ahead of any prediction, we have undoubtedly reached the point where we can see that the end of “cheap fossil fuels” and its approaching depletion are becoming a reality. Furthermore, we have become increasingly aware of the environmental impact caused by petrochemicals and the use of petroleum derivates within the chemical industry in general.
We know that hydrocarbons from biomass are an excellent source for chemical processes and we also know that we are presently only transforming about 5% of available bio-waste into hydrocarbons [1 - 4]. These aspects, highlighted by the barrel of crude climbing past the $50 mark, evidence the fact that the chemical industry needs rethinking, and urgently.
All facts considered, today more than ever, the importance of replacing petroleum, not only as a source of fuel but as a raw material for the chemical industry in general, is highly evidenced and becoming rather urgent.
The following pages describe the developmental work and many of the possibilities for plastic raw materials from renewable natural resources as well as agricultural and food-industry waste. Several raw materials of significant importance, for which the market is already accusing a supply deficit, may be produced using the ACG continuous closed loop process, directly from biomass and/or through hydrocarbon intermediates.