Feedstock in Chemistry and Engineering

Corn is used as a feedstock used for biodiesel (biofuel).
Corn is used as a feedstock used for biodiesel (biofuel). Dave Reede / Getty Images

A feedstock refers to any unprocessed material used to supply a manufacturing process. Feedstocks are bottleneck assets because their availability determines the ability to make products.

In its most general sense, a feedstock is a natural material (e.g., ore, wood, seawater, coal) that has been transformed for marketing in large volumes.

In engineering, particularly as it relates to energy, a feedstock refers specifically to a renewable, biological material that can be converted into energy or fuel.

In chemistry, a feedstock is a chemical used to support a large-scale chemical reaction. The term usually refers to an organic substance.

Also Known As: A feedstock may also be called a raw material or unprocessed material. Sometimes feedstock is a synonym for biomass.

Examples of Feedstocks

Using the broad definition of a feedstock, any natural resource might be considered an example, including any mineral, vegetation, or air or water. If it can be mined, grown, caught, or collected and isn't produced by man, it's a raw material.

When a feedstock is a renewable biological substance, examples include crops, woody plants, algae, petroleum, and natural gas. Specifically, crude oil is a feedstock for the production of gasoline. In the chemical industry, petroleum is a feedstock for a host of chemicals, including methane, propylene, and butane. Algae is a feedstock for hydrocarbon fuels, Corn is a feedstock for ethanol.