Green chemicals: OPX nears commercial goal for bio-based acrylic acid

28 February 2011 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Colorado-based developer OPX Biotechnologies achieves 55–70 cents/lb price target


US-based OPX Biotechnologies (OPXBIO) is rapidly reaching the commercialization goal of its bio-based acrylic acid. The company recently achieved a commercial-scale manufacturing cost of 70 cents/lb (€1.12/kg) using corn sugar feedstock or 55 cents/lb using sugarcane feedstock in Brazil.

The company’s ultimate goal is to produce bio-acrylic acid at 50 cents/lb using corn sugar and less than 40 cents/lb using sugarcane, said CEO Charles Eggert in an interview on the sidelines of the Infocast Biobased Chemicals Summit held in San Diego, California, US in February. The company’s pilot process is now able to achieve 79% production yield generating 70 grams/liter concentration in 26-hour fermentation.

“[The] current base production cost of petroleum-based acrylic acid is around 75 cents/lb and is on the rise,” said Eggert. “Based on our pilot process results, we can sell bio-acrylic acid in the marketplace at $1.00–1.25/lb.” ICIS assessed the US glacial acrylic acid contract price for January at $1.30–1.35/lb compared with 79–84 cents/lb reported a year ago.

OPXBIO is producing acrylic acid via the 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HPA) route using its proprietary EDGE (Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering) technology. 3-HPA is converted through a dehydration reaction process.

OPXBIO is moving to a larger demonstration-scale processing, which the company expects to operate between mid-2011 and mid-2013 through a contract bioprocessing facility located in North America. The company is also on the development of a strategic partnership for the demo phase and ultimately for the commercialization phase, which OPXBIO expects to start in 2014.

“We now can prove that we can sell our bioacrylic acid at a very attractive margin and easily pay back the capital investment of a commercial-scale plant based on the performance we’ve demonstrated,” said Eggert. “With further work on the microorganism and the process, we [will] even do better going forward as we advance to demo scale.”

OPXBIO is starting its $35m series C round of financing in the first week of March to support the demonstration phase of the project. “We anticipate those funds will support us for the next 12–24 months and then we plan to raise further funds either privately or publicly for the construction of the commercial scale plant,” Eggert added.

By: Doris de Guzman
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