Ethanol rejoice! Genomatica develops bio-MEK

The green chemistry field is on fire this week! (I mean this figuratively so need to call the Environmental Protection Agency)

After Segetis’ news on their full-speed plant operation in Minneapolis last Monday, another start-up firm Genomatica announced today that they have developed biobased methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), an industrial solvent, using sugar and water – and maybe a catalyst and some organisms to go along with it.

Genomatica hopes this new process will help the ailing ethanol industry as the biobased MEK can be produced in existing ethanol manufacturing facilities with minimal additional investments. The Renewable Fuels Association estimated that 10 or more companies have shut down 24 ethanol plants, which represents 15% of US ethanol production, over the last 3 months.

Definitely a great news for ex (or soon to be) ethanol manufacturers wanting to get more profits out of their plants. Genomatica said the MEK industry is worth more than $2 billion worldwide.

About 400 million pounds of MEK are bought and sold in the United States each year, and around 100 million pounds are said to be imported from overseas.

Genomatica is also currently tweaking their biobased- 1,4 butanediol (BDO) process. The company is now developing the process engineering plans for a demonstration plant to manufacture bio-BDO and expects to initiate construction of the plant later this year.

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