InterviewCargill strain can reduce US BioAmber acid costs by 25%

05 January 2011 19:32  [Source: ICIS news]

By Doris de Guzman

NEW YORK (ICIS)--US renewable chemicals company BioAmber is developing a micro-organism, licenced from agribusiness firm Cargill, which can reduce the production cost of bio-based succinic acid by 25%, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

“We have actually been working on this project since last spring, and we hope to have the strain in commercial production in three years,” said Jean-Francois Huc in an interview with ICIS.

“We wanted to operate in stealth mode for a period of time and advance the project,” he added.

BioAmber plans to use the new strain in all of its commercial plants. The company is currently producing bio-based succinic acid at its 2,000 tonnes/year plant in Pomacle, France.

BioAmber is in active discussions to build commercial-scale plants in North America and Asia, each of which could have initial capacities ranging between 25,000-30,000 tonnes/year.

Huc said the goal is to double these plants' capacities with the use of the Cargill strain.

“We will initially operate these plants with our current bacteria, which has been scaled up and proven to be economically viable, and will switch to the Cargill strain as soon as it is scaled,” said Huc.

“The strain technology is dramatically better than any bacterial strain we know of, so we feel these objectives are within reach,” he added.

The Cargill strain is expected to offer higher titre yields, which would reduce plant capital expenditures, and improved sugar yields, which would reduce the amount of necessary sugar feedstock. The strain is expected to reduce purification costs, and can use non-food feedstocks like lignocellulosic material.

In September, BioAmber said its second-generation organism would lower the company's bio-based succinic acid cost by 25-35 cents/lb ($551-771/tonne, €413-578/tonne) within the next four to five years.

BioAmber recently established an in-house R&D laboratory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Huc said the lab was gathering a research and development team.

Succinic acid has a chemical structure similar to maleic anhydride (MA).

($1 = €0.75)

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By: Doris de Guzman
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