Biofuels, biomaterials growing at 3X the global GDP rate

October 19, 2011 |

Survey says: Biofuels and biomaterials growing rapidly, seeking new friends, markets

In Florida, Biofuels Digest reports that 79 percent of bioenergy executives are more optimistic both about their organization’s prospects for growth and industry growth, than 12 months ago, and that 72 percent are more optimistic about the industry’s prospects than at this time in 2010.

The findings were among the highlights of the Q2 2011 Bioenergy Business Outlook Survey conducted by Biofuels Digest and co-presented by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Growing at 3X the global GDP growth rate, jobs up 5% in next 12 months

Overall, the survey painted a picture of an industry that is expecting to grow at nearly triple the growth rate of the world economy (8.9 percent for the industry, compared to 3.2 percent for the total economy), but expecting to find generally less external support in the form of tangible support from government, and less IPO activity.

In Q1 of this year, 39 percent said that favorable government mandates, tariffs or tax credits would be a strong growth driver, but only 31 percent said so in the Fall survey.

“The bottom line: the biomaterials industry is looking for new friends, new markets, new avenues to finance,” commented Jim Lane, editor and publisher of Biofuels Digest. “They understand now that, in order to fulfill their substantial promise, they not only have to pioneer novel technologies, but novel business models and pathways to commercialization.”

The nature of financing is changing. Merger activity is expected to increase. The industry sees the IPO window as substantially less open in the next 12 months than the past year, but report a generally higher success rate in obtaining new finance.

Geographies are changing in importance for them. They generally cite the US, EU and Brazil as the key markets for growth. Fast growing in importance: Australia/New Zealand and the Pacific, cited by 23 percent of respondents as a key growth geography (“outside of your home country”), up from 17 percent in the spring survey and 13 percent in Q1 of this year.

Respondents continue to chill out on the prospects for cellulosic ethanol. Though 50 percent of respondents expect that sector to reach 1 billion gallons in capacity, 67 percent indicated the same belief in Q1 of this year. Holding steady or increasing in importance, among the fuel types: aviation and algae-based fuels.

Revenue growth

Respondents said that they expect their firms to grow by a median 8.4 percent over the next 12 months, down from a median of 11.6 percent in the Q12 survey. Industry revenue is expected to grow 8.9 percent, up from 8.45 percent in the spring survey.

Respondents indicated that they have an average of $128 million in revenues per company.

Job growth

Those that are hiring, expect to hire big. The average job growth rate per company is expected to reach 50 percent in the next 12 months, but the median stands at 4.9 percent, meaning that 50 percent of companies expect to grow their employee base by less than 5 percent. 31 percent of respondents said that they did not expect to add new headcount in the next 12 months.

Respondents indicated that they have, on average, 102 employees per company.

IPO activity

58 percent of respondents said that they expect to see more completed IPOs in the next 12 months, compared to the past 12. That’s sharply down from the 74 percent who answered “yes” in the spring survey.

Mergers and consolidations

77 percent of respondents said that they expected to see more mergers and consolidations in the next 12 months, compared to the past year., That number has risen slowly but steadily throughout the year, up from 74 percent in the spring survey and 72 percent in the Q1 poll.


48 percent of respondents tried for new financing in the past 12 months, down from 56 percent, and 53 percent of those that tried were successful. 56 percent said that they were going for new financing in the next 12 months.

Growth drivers

Respondents pointed to the rising demand for fuels as the single biggest driver of growth, with 54 percent tipping this as a major factor. 15 percent cited the entry of new companies, a small number but sharply up from the 9 percent cited in the spring survey, while 21 percent said that increased production capacity was driving growth, up from 15 percent in the spring.


Despite clouds over government activity in the US, 64 percent described the government attitude as supportive, up from 62 percent in the Q2 survey.
Among preferred policies, executives pointed strongly towards a carbon price, with 36 percent of respondents indicating this would be a strong growth driver, and increased subsidies and incentives were cited by 43 percent, up from 37 in the previous survey. 30 percent pointed to fuel-neutral legislation, while only 16 percent indicated that new mandates would drive growth.


Among fuels, 50 percent of executives said they expect cellulosic ethanol, to reach 1 billion gallons by 2020, down from 52 percent in the spring. Aviation was flat at 50 percent, biobutanol fell to 23 percent from 28 percent in Q2. Gaining momentum was renewable diesel at 52 percent, up from 50 percent in the Q2 survey, while military biofuels jumped sharply from 34 to 42 percent.


68 percent of survey respondents are headquartered in the North America, 12 percent in Europe, 8 percent in Asia, 5 percent in Latin America and 3 percent in Australia/New Zealand.

In terms of company operations, 74 percent said that they operated in the US, 30 percent in Canada, 33 percent in the EU, 20 percent in East Aisa, 19 percent in South Asia, and 18 percent in Australia/NewZealand and the Pacific Islands.

Looking at regions that are key to company growth, 44 percent cited the US, up from 37 percent in the spring survey; 35 percent cited Canada, up from 31 percent, and 22 percent cited Australia/New Zealand and the Pacific, up sharply from 17 percent in the spring.

The complete results

The complete results can be downloaded here.

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