A biorefinery is much like a petroleum refining system, except that renewable plant cellulosic materials (biomass) replace crude oil. As crude oil becomes limiting within the next 30 years or so, a biorefining technology will play a leading role to replace chemicals presently produced from fossil oil at the petroleum refinery.
With this vision in mind, the Biorefining Research Institute (BRI) will not be limited to only biofuels, chemicals and bioenergy from forest biomass, but will also consider the economic benefits derived from the forest ecosystem. Forest-inhabiting microorganisms (the microbiota) are a diverse and valuable resource from which high-valued products can be derived, e.g., enzymes used in bioconversion processes, antibiotics and pharmacologically-active compounds in treating human and veterinary diseases, and as agents to resolve environmental problems (bioremediation of pollution sites).
The BRI will focus on three major streams involving biorefining of forest biomass: