Xylochemistry - the use of wood as a source of raw materials for chemical synthesis - provides a climate-neutral alternative to the conventional use of fossil carbon sources such as natural gas, oil, or coal. Climate and agriculture in the Southeast United States offer opportunities to utilized renewable biomass as a resource material for the chemical industry.
Conceptually, Xylochemistry is an approach to a sustainable chemical economy based on the use of wood as an alternative, and more practical carbon source.
Wood is well-suited as a source of valuable basic chemicals and commodities utilized for the production of polymers or plastics, dyes, adhesives, pharmaceuticals, fuels and a host of other consumer goods. A conservative approach to resource utilization combined with the growth in the chemical sciences can provide a sustainable and economical xylochemical alternative to conventional petrochemistry.
Presently, the global annual production of timber and oil are comparable. The yearly world-wide wood production is about 5 × 109 m3, while the global oil production is currently around 4 × 109 m3 per year. Xylochemistry is CO2-neutral and will, depending on the life of the products produced therefrom, even lead to a decrease in the atmospheric carbon inventory. As opposed to fossil resources, wood contains additional important functionalities such as hydroxyl or carboxyl groups, which can be used for the production of high-value products.