Report: Iowa well positioned for biobased chemical development

By Erin Voegele | January 22, 2016

A white paper published by Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor and the Iowa Biotechnology Association shows that Iowa is better positioned than many domestic competitors to capitalize on the next frontier of bioprocessing in the U.S.

The report details how statewide economic development incentives can address the unique needs of the budding industry and allow Iowa to emerge as a leader in biorenewable chemical investment and job creation in coming years.

“Iowa is very well-positioned to capitalize on the next frontier of bioprocessing in the United States, which will help our state economy grow, create jobs and position us as a worldwide leader,” said Brent Willett, executive director of the Cultivation Corridor. “We can and must capitalize on this opportunity, and we’ve got to work together to do so.”

“The opportunity exists to be even more of a leader in this space due to our ability to bring the right people to the table,” said Joe Hrdlicka, executive director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association. “To take the next step, we need support from our State Legislature in the form of a statewide economic development incentive tailored to address the unique needs of the burgeoning biorenewables industry.”

According to the report, first generation biofuels have been an important economic driver in Iowa. Ethanol production alone accounts for an estimated $2.23 billion per year in state gross domestic product while supporting more than 8,693 jobs.

The report notes that project opportunities in the biobased chemical sector exist today. At least five potential biobased chemical products were identified through an industry interview process conducted as part of the report. Representatives of these projects indicated a production tax credit for renewable chemicals would be fundamental to the decision of whether or not to locate those projects in Iowa.

In addition, the report lists several competitive advantages associated with developing biobased chemical projects in Iowa, including the availability of biofuel byproducts, such as glycerin and distillers oils. Other advantages include the existence of several underutilized wet mills, and the fact that first generation biofuels can be upgraded into higher value chemicals.

According to the report, the U.S. market for chemicals is more than $250 billion per year. More than 50,000 jobs in biobased chemicals and materials are projected to be created by the U.S. by 2020.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded on Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor website.