Green chemicals: OPX Biotechnologies reaches 55-70 cents/lb bio-acrylic acid price

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.

Ohio, US-based startup firm Bioformix has developed a high-speed, no-heat cure technology that can dramatically save energy and costs in adhesive and coatings application.

The company's technology is based on a di-substituted vinyl monomer platform that has been known for decades but every previous attempt to commercialize it failed, said Bioformix CEO Adam Malofsky in an interview on the sidelines of the Infocast Biobased Chemicals Summit held in San Diego, California, in mid-February. "Through the research of the principals of the company, enabling discoveries have been made that allow for the chemistry's full utilization, especially in adhesives and coatings," he added. Bioformix's formulated polymers provide epoxy-like bonds with high-speed curing at an ambient temperature. By eliminating heat for adhesive and binder cure, the technology allows dramatic energy savings and the selection of lower-cost, non-heat resistant materials in products, said Malofsky.

The company's raw material, acetic acid, can be sourced from either petroleum feedstock or direct fermentation from sugar, although Malofsky said that Bioformix is using petroleum-based acetic acid for now. "We will start looking into using renewable-based feedstock next year and we can easily switch feedstock as needed," he added. Bioformix could supply 100-1,000kg/day of the monomers if required, although the company is more focused on selling formulated products at an initial price range of between $25 and $1,000/lb, depending on the applications. "When it comes to selling monomers, we know long term, the price can go well below 50 cents/lb and can compete against acrylics, epoxies, urethanes and reactive polymers," said Malofsky.

Bioformix's strategy, Malofsky noted, centers initially upon low-volume, high-margin adhesive and coatings applications, although its monomers can also be used in binders, composites, water soluble polymers, superabsorbent polymers, particle boards, fibers and traditional plastics.

"Our technology is finding an application and not substituting a chemical," he said. "We will start selling in adhesives and coatings this fall until early 2012. Within the first three years, we expect to complete higher production scale strategic partnerships for both monomer and polymer manufacture as well as application development," he added.

Bioformix is already working with several adhesive and coatings players as well as in the downstream markets. The company plans to form individual subsidiaries for different market areas. "We are working with Ohio, US-based custom chemical manufacturer Shepherd Chemical to toll produce the di-substituted vinyl monomers. They can easily produce 3m lb/year of the monomers and be able to distribute it globally," said Malofsky.

Other areas the company is looking into are the medical and food/beverage markets, pointing out that the monomers are said to be metabolically and biologically compatible. "Silicone was the last big platform and we think our chemistry can be the next big one," said Malofsky.

By: Doris de Guzman
+1 713 525 2653

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