Npra biobased chemicals article 2011
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Npra biobased chemicals article 2011

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My article (included on the NPRA IPC 2011 supplement) on progress towards bio-based feedstocks as an alternative to crude oil-derived materials.

My article (included on the NPRA IPC 2011 supplement) on progress towards bio-based feedstocks as an alternative to crude oil-derived materials.

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  • 1. NPRA BIOBASED FEEDSTOCKS Rex FeaturesThe long search for biobased feedstocks is coming to an endBiochemicals of biomass-based polybutylene succinate (PBS). MCC announced in December its plans to establish operations in Thailand with PTT for the production of lower-cost bio-PBS, withare coming soon a target initial capacity of around 20,000 short tons/year by 2015. MCC already produces its biodegradable PBS polymer made from petro- leum-based succinic acid in Japan, and sells it worldwide under the trademark GS Pla.The petrochemical sector will soon have an array of Petrochemical-derived PBS demand world- wide is estimated at around 3,000 tonnes/renewable raw materials to choose from, as companies year, says Jim Millis, chief technology officergear up to commercialization through partnerships at BioAmber. “PBS demand is expected to grow to 50,000 tonnes/year if the current monomer of succinic acid is replaced withDORIS DE GUZMAN NEW YORK keting of succinic acid and its derivatives. biobased product,” he adds. In January, Myriant announced a joint ven- BioAmber is currently marketing PBS withB iobased chemicals activities are at ture with Thailand petrochemical producer more than 51% biobased content produced by fever pitch this year, as several start- PTT Chemical (PTTCH) for deployment of its Chinese subsidiary Sinoven Biopolymer. up companies step up their efforts Myriant’s succinic acid technology in south- Applications for the modified bio-PBS include towards commercialization phase. east Asia. The companies did not disclose fur- food service coffee lids, cups, dishes, plastic In the biobased intermediates, products ther information about the joint venture, al- cutlery, straws, stirrers, disposable razors, writ-such as acrylic acid, adipic acid, 1,4-butane- though a source from PTTCH noted its ing instruments and cosmetic packaging.diol (BDO) and succinic acid are among those intention of investing in a new bioplastic “We believe that the availability of lower-that are considered frontrunners in advancing facility within Asia as part of its recent tie-up cost, biobased succinic acid will drive theproduct and process development. Biosuc- with Myriant. growth of PBS,” says BioAmber presidentcinic acid producers US-based Myriant Tech- PTTCH parent company, PTT Group, is Jean-Francois Huc. “PBS is a biopolymer withnologies and BioAmber are already neck and also in collaboration with Japan-based Mit- tremendous potential, especially when blend-neck in forming partnerships and future mar- subishi Chemical (MCC) for the development ed with polylactic acid (PLA). Biobased suc-26 | NPRA Supplement | March 2011
  • 2. cinic acid makes PBS more cost competitive um-based feedstock and the desire to move the fermentation process for C4 chemicals,as well,” he adds. into greener products,” Saleh notes. with our commercial entry focusing on the BioAmber says it will soon disclose addi- BioAmber’s Huc agreed on the strong po- pyrrolidones segment of the value chain. Thistional strategic partnerships that tential demand growth coming from biobased will be followed by BDO production based onhave been established to com- BDO, but noted its intention to focus more on direct hydrogenation of gamma butyrolactonemercialize succinic acid and the liquid phase hydrogenation technology (GBL) produced in the process.”modified PBS. The company rather than the vapor phase hydrogenation Metabolix aims to deliver product samplescurrently produces biosuccinic route through the Davy process. to potential customers before the end of firstacid at its 3,000 tonne/year “We believe the low-cost route to BDO and quarter. “This is the first step in the systematicdemonstration facility in THF is via liquid phase hydrogenation, where development of our offering in this strategi-Pomacle, France. there is no need to evaporate and crystallize cally important value chain,” Eno added. succinic acid once it has been purified from The company’s PHA bioplastic under the“Our focus is now on our broth, and there is no need to esterify the suc- Mirel brand is already running at commercial cinic,” says Huc. “Our focus is to couple our scale and is produced by Telles, its joint ven-commercialization journey” low-cost succinic acid process with liquid ture company with US agribusiness firmCHRISTOPHE SCHILLING phase hydrogenation to cost-effectively convert Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). Metabolix dlandCEO, Genomatica renewable sugars to BDO and THF.” said its PHA platform allows orm Huc adds that the firm is, however, open to the company to produce a roduce BioAmber will start construction of its working with companies interested in BDO hemicals range of C2-C5 chemicalsplanned 20,000-30,000 tonnes/year North from succinic, regardless of technology “as we ermenta- using a common fermenta-American plant – which is expected to start believe our succinic technology will be low tion and recovery process.up in early 2013 – later this year. The compa- cost in the industry,” Huc said. Metabolix’ chemicals activi- alsny is already in discussions about a third US-based sustainable chemicals producer ties are outside of its ffacility in Asia that would come online in Genomatica noted that the succinic acid-to- Telles joint venture.2014 or 2015. “The Asian plant will be larger BDO route is not as cost-effective compared tothan the North American plant,” says Huc. the company’s direct bio-BDO production, “The next step is to complete Myriant, meanwhile, is building its 30m lb/ which involves only fermentation and separa-year (13,600 tonnes/year) biosuccinic acid fa- tion processes using sugar feedstock. engineering of thecility in Louisiana, US, which is expected to “Our direct production route to BDO elimi- commercial-scale facility”be operational by 2012. The facility will use nates the need for the isolation and purifica- CHAS EGGERTsorghum and carbon dioxide for feedstock. tion of succinic acid and the subsequent high- President and CEO, OPX Biotechnologies temperature and high-pressure steps for BDOTHE ROUTE TO CHEAPER BUTANEDIOL conversion via catalytic hydrogenation,” saidMyriant this month announced its collabora- Genomatica CEO Christophe Schilling. “We After commercialization of its bio-BDO andtion with UK engineering firm Davy Process estimate that the additional processing steps GBL, the company’s next focus is on C3 chem-Technology for the production of BDO, between succinic acid and BDO could add at icals. “We have already demonstrated proof oftetrahydrofuran (THF) and gamma-butyro- least 20 cents/lb (€0.36/kg) to the cost of the concept for C3s targeting the $7bn acrylic andlactone using biosuccinic acid as feedstock. final product,” he added. acrylates market,” said Eno. Davy’s BDO production technology, which Genomatica recently raised $45m (€32m)accounted for more than half a million tonnes/ from new and existing investors to complete HEAD START ON BIOACRYLICSyear of BDO production worldwide, currently its planned demonstration facility this year. US renewable chemical firm OPX Biotech-uses petroleum-based maleic anhydride for Further details for the demonstration facility nologies (OPXBIO) intends to be the first tofeedstock, says Alif Saleh, senior director, will soon be announced, said Schilling. “Our commercially produce bio-based acrylic acidspecialty chemicals at Myriant. focus is on commercialization. We have by 2014, also through strategic partnerships. “Davy is one of the world’s premier BDO achieved our cost, quality and performance The company is currently scaling up to alicensors, with significant market share and targets. We’re continuing to provide product 1m lb/year demonstration-scale plant, whichinstalled base. This partnership opens up an samples to our customers,” he added. it expects to operate in 2011-2012 through aenormous market for Myriant’s biosuccinic Genomatica plans the first commercial- contract bioprocessing facility located inacid, which is already in the BDO applica- scale facility in late 2013, pending successful North America, said OPXBIO president andtion,” says Saleh. “By sourcing biosuccinic operation of its demo facility. The company CEO Chas Eggert. Partnership for the demoacid from Myriant, companies that are already expects to have partners involved in both the phase will be announced soon, he said.producing BDO can transform their business scale-up process and downstream applica- “The demo facility is to confirm that ourinto a greener and less volatile business.” tions development, said Schilling. process technologies and economics will work The partnership will also focus on engi- on a larger scale, as well as to generate bioacryl-neering a process that will produce BDO di- METABOLIX ENTERS BIOCHEMICALS ic products for our downstream customers torectly from the purified fermentation broth For the past few years, US bioplastic develop- evaluate,” said Eggert. “The next step is to com-thus avoiding the recovery and purification er Metabolix has been developing C4 chemi- plete engineering of the commercial-scale facil-requirements of succinic acid, added Saleh. cals using its polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) ity and have it ready for operation by Q4 2014.” Myriant notes tremendous increase in in- platform. The company just confirmed its in- OPXBIO has achieved commercial-scalequiries from existing BDO producers and cus- tention towards producing bio-BDO. manufacturing costs of 70 cents/lb for corntomers in the process of making a decision re- “Our initial focus is on C4 chemicals target- sugar-based bioacrylic acid and 55 cents/lbgarding new BDO plants and capacities. ing the $3bn pyrrolidones and BDO markets,” using sugar feedstock from Brazil. Its ultimate“There are two main drivers from the market: said Rick Eno, president and CEO of Metabo- target is 50 cents/lb using corn sugar and lessthe desire to move away from volatile petrole- lix. “During 2010, we successfully scaled up than 40 cents/lb using cane March 2011 | NPRA Supplement | 27