Projects: DSM to build joint-venture bio-succinic acid plant in Italy

16 May 2011 00:00  [Source: ICB]

BioAmber produces biosuccinic acid in Pomacle, France
Joint venture plant with Roquette will be located in Italy and provide the building block for materials such as butanediol

Dutch specialty chemical producer DSM and French starch and derivatives company Roquette Freres have announced plans to build a commercial-scale, bio-based succinic acid plant in Italy.

The 10,000 tonne/year plant will be located at Roquette's site in Cassano Spinola, and is expected to come on stream in the second half of 2012.

It will use starch derivatives as feedstock, but in the longer term the companies plan to switch to second-generation ­cellulosic biomass feedstock.

DSM said it will be Europe's largest biosuccinic acid plant. US-based renewable chemical company BioAmber currently operates Europe's largest biosuccinic acid plant - a 3,000 tonne/year facility in ­Pomacle, France.

The Cassano project demonstrates the current shift from a fossil-based economy to a bio-based economy, stated DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma. "We are at a turning point ­towards a green industrial ­revolution to secure our feed and fuel needs in the future," he remarked.

Biosuccinic acid is a bio-based alternative building block for a broad range of applications including packaging and footwear, DSM said.

DSM and Roquette started cooperating on the development of biosuccinic acid in 2008, and started up a demonstration plant in Lestrem, France, early last year. The companies intend to implement the project via a 50:50 joint venture company named Reverdia.

The joint venture, which is pending regulatory approval, would be responsible for marketing the output.

DSM said that while biosuccinic acid can be used to replace fossil-based succinic acid, the joint venture will focus on new applications for succinic acid in materials such as polybutylene succinate and 1,4-butanediol (BDO).

Biosuccinic acid is more cost-competitive than fossil-based succinic acid, and therefore opens up new applications and markets, explained DSM spokesman Herman Betten.

Fossil-based succinic acid is too expensive to gain a large market share, he said.

DSM estimates the existing fossil-based succinic acid market at approximately 35,000 tonnes, sold in the form of the acid, salt and anhydride and other derivatives. This equates to a market value of approximately €100m ($144m), ­depending on the assumed price - which historically ranges between €3-5/kg, the company said. It did not provide estimates for the biosuccinic acid market.

DSM and Roquette said they will consider building a larger facility in the future if demand for ­biosuccinic acid develops in line with expectations. The Cassano project will enable them to build the market so they can further scale up the technology to a much larger facility, said Betten. The companies will evaluate potential locations worldwide for the next project, he added.

DSM said it would also ­consider licensing options. "Some of the applications, such as polybutylene succinate, BDO, and even polyurethane (PU) and resins, have ample potential whereby a licensing option with the right partner could make sense," Betten said.

"We are open to such discussions with customers, but our focus right now is on getting this first plant up and running in time to support our customers' development efforts."

BioAmber is also developing a new commercial-scale biosuccinic acid project.

The plant would be located in North America, with a 20,000 tonne/year capacity, and is expected to start up in the first half of 2013. BioAmber has identified two possible locations for the project, and expects to decide on the location in the next few months.

The company said the plant will initially produce biosuccinic acid, with the intention to expand capacity in the future to include BDO, tetrahydrofuran (THF), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and succinate esters.

Earlier this month, BioAmber said it had raised $45m to help commercialize biosuccinic acid and modified polybutylene succinate, and to make progress in the North American project.

The funds will also support BioAmber's development work to convert succinic acid to BDO, using technology licensed from US firm DuPont, and to use nonfood feedstocks for bio-based succinic acid production.

BioAmber is also conducting a feasibility study to build a biosuccinic acid plant in Thailand in partnership with its Asian distribution partner, Mitsui & Co, and Mitsubishi Chemical. The plant would be located next to Mitsubishi Chemical's planned polybutylene succinate plant in Thailand.

BioAmber also announced that it and Mitsui & Co have become exclusive suppliers of bio-based succinic acid to Mitsubishi Chemical.

By: Anna Jagger
+44 20 8652 3214

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