Price and market trends: Genomatica produces commercial quantities of bio-BDO

22 February 2013 10:21  [Source: ICB]

CEO Christophe Schilling is seeking partners to license its technology after producing 1,4 butanediol on commercial scale

US-based renewable chemical process technology firm Genomatica is in active discussions with potential partners to license its bio-butanediol (BDO) technology, which has been proven on a commercial scale, its chief executive said.

"We are actively advancing our licensing activities," said Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica on 12 February. "The validation of our commercial-scale process for BDO provides additional ammunition as we explore opportunities in all major markets around the world."

Genomatica and US-based DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products (DTL) announced that they have successfully produced commercial quantities of 1,4 butanediol at DTL's batch fermentation and continuous downstream processing operation in Loudon, Tennessee, US.

Over a five-week campaign completed at the end of 2012, the companies produced more than 5m lb (over 2,000 tonnes) of BDO over the course of five weeks by direct fermentation using corn dextrose feedstock.

The five-week production campaign took place at DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products' Loudon plant

That equates to a run-rate of over 52m lb/year, or more than 23,000 tonnes/year.

The BDO plant in Loudon is located next to a corn wet milling operation by Tate & Lyle.

"We are extremely excited about this unique event and were able to validate the process repeatedly - well over 50 times. The fermentation works extremely well at commercial scale," said Schilling.

The BDO also met specifications for the customers it was shipped to, noted Schilling. He would not reveal the customers' identity.

COST ADVANTAGES
"We expect to deliver better overall economics for the production of BDO than petrochemical routes," said Schilling. "Already today, the combination of our competitive cost position and an opportunity to gain access to advantaged technology has resulted in significant interest and companies taking action to buy product. All the product from our campaign has been purchased and delivered."

Advantages of Genomatica's bio-based BDO process include lower capital expenditure per lb of capacity, flexibility in plant size, and competitive operating expenditures, noted Schilling.

"We further expect our economics to continue to improve over time as we enable the use of potentially lower cost feedstocks, such as cellulosic biomass, and continue to improve our organism and overall process," he said.

The Genomatica announcement comes amid growing scepticism concerning the viability of bio-based chemical processes among investors.

In 2012, publicly traded bio-based chemical stocks fell sharply and the window for initial public offerings (IPO) remains shut.

INDUSTRY OPPORTUNITY
"We are also excited for the bio-based chemical industry. It is a great opportunity for the industry to show these technologies can scale up at a time when there is a real need for a shot in the arm," Schilling said.

Genomatica will focus on working with partners to build new facilities. A standard new bio-BDO plant would have between 100m-130m lb/year (45,000-60,000 tonnes/year) of capacity, Schilling said.

EXISTING PARTNERSHIP
Genomatica already has a joint venture project with Italy-based Novamont to convert a plant in Adria, Italy, to 40m lb/year of bio-BDO production, which is scheduled for completion towards the end of 2013.

Although Genomatica owns 20% of the BDO venture, with Novamont owning the other 80%, it is not contributing any capital to the project.

Genomatica's model is based on licensing its process technology to other parties to build plants. It can also take an equity stake in projects in exchange for technology.

The company is also working with Japan-based Mitsubishi Chemical to explore a joint commercial BDO operation in Asia.


By: Joseph Chang
+1 713 525 2653



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