InterviewUS LanzaTech partners with INVISTA on bio-butadiene deal

13 August 2012 16:06  [Source: ICIS news]

Butadiene rubber goes into the production of tyres for the automotive industryBy Doris de Guzman

NEW YORK (ICIS)--US biotechnology firm LanzaTech has partnered with global nylon producer INVISTA to develop and manufacture bio-based 1,3 butadiene (BD) using carbon monoxide (CO) for feedstock, LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said on Monday.

The bio-butadiene developed will be used as a key intermediate for INVISTA’s proprietary butadiene-based adiponitrile (ADN) production technologies. ADN is an intermediate chemical in the manufacture of nylon 6, 6.

The companies will initially focus on the production of bio-butadiene in a two-step process using LanzaTech’s CO-derived 2, 3 butanediol (2, 3 BDO) technology. Longer term, the companies will also develop a single process to produce butadiene directly using gas fermentation technology.

“Ideally, we want to produce butadiene directly using gas fermentation but that would require further tailoring of our organism which is a longer-term project,” said Holmgren.

“Right now, we can already economically produce 2, 3 BDO that can be used to make butadiene. We decided to start commercialising this biochemical route to BD now while we further develop the other process,” she added.

The companies expect initial commercialisation of bio-BD via the 2, 3 BDO route in 2016.

According to INVISTA, developing a cost-competitive biological route to BD will help assure ample supply and reduce price volatility of the chemical.

INVISTA claimed that its proprietary butadiene-based ADN production technologies are already widely recognised as one of the most effective and cost-efficient methods of ADN production. More than 75% of the world’s existing ADN capacity uses the INVISTA technology, the company said.

Holmgren said the 2, 3 BDO-to-BD development project will be done in LanzaTech’s pilot facilities in Chicago, US, and in New Zealand.

LanzaTech and its partner, US-based Orochem Technologies, believe they have a separation route that can economically convert LanzaTech's CO-based 2, 3 BDO into 1, and 3 BD using a thermocatalytic process.

Unlike bio-based BD developments that use sugar fermentation, their technology will not depend on the sugar value chain, she said.

“One advantage is that we will not be completely reliant on a commodity product. The other advantage is that gas fermentation is a continuous process, which is more efficient than sugar fermentation where most of it is batch processing,” Holmgren added.

2, 3 BDO is currently available as a laboratory chemical and is being sold as a small-volume intermediate for certain niche applications such as in food flavouring additives. In the past, 2, 3 BDO was used as a feedstock to make butadiene for synthetic rubber, before it was abandoned in favour of a more cost-effective naphtha-based BD.

By: Doris de Guzman
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