Big bio-succinic acid potential

Now that I’ve filed my Energy Efficiency article for ICIS Chemical Business (watch out for that on August 17 issue!), I can now go back to blogging about my post coverage of last week’s BIO World Congress on Industrial and Biotechnology conference in Montreal, Canada.

As previously mentioned in my last post, there seems to be a lot of anticipation brewing for the commercialization of the chemical building block bio-succinic acid. According to DSM’s Will van den Tweel (business manager Bio-Based Chemicals and Fuels for DSM White Biotechnology), the US Dept. of Energy identified succinic acid as one of the best targets to develop through fermentation.

DNP Green Technology president Jean-Francois Huc cited a recent Frost & Sullivan consulting report stating that succinic acid, lactic acid, 1,3 propanediol and glycerol as the top 4 platform molecules renewable chemistry.


Let’s start with DNP’s presentation, which has a joint venture company called Bio amber with French R&D company ARD. Bio amber will start in October its 2,000 tonne/year bio-succinic acid demo plant in Pomacle, France. DNP believes it will be the first to market bio-succinic acid and looking to start building a large-scale commercial plant by 2011.

“We are no longer a development program and our risk is operational, not technological,” said Huc. “We are preparing an engineering process package for a commercial plant (succinic acid and deicer fluid) and expect to sell a first license in 2009.”

Talks are ongoing between Bio amber and 50 companies to test and develop succinic acid derivatives in applications such as polyurethanes, polyesters, PBS, deicers, plasticizers and oxygenates.

“Partnerships are already in place for the use of potassium succinate in liquid deicers and solid deicers; succinate esters for plasticizers, 1,4 BDO and fuel oxygenates; and succinic acid for polyurethanes and biopolymers,” said Huc.

He added that they are currently in discussion for potential partnership in the use of succinate esters for solvents.

The company’s core technology is said to be an E.coli developed bythe US Department of Energy. Their feedstock includes carbon dioxideand carbohydrates such as glucose, mixed C5 and C6, and glycerin.


Quincy, Massachusetts-based Myriant Technologies, a subsidiary ofBioEnergy International, recently announced that it has successfullypiloted its starch sugar-based succinic acid and plans to produceton-sized samples in fourth quarter of 2009 for its customers to verifyproduct specifications and quality.

“Ourfirst generation feedstock is starch but a cellulosic succinic acid isalready under development with a pilot scale plant already underconstruction,” said Myriant specialty chemicals director Alif Saleh.”We are hoping to have a commercial production by the second half of2010.”

Saleh said their succinic acid is using the sameorganism platform as for their D-lactic acid, which the company startedproducing in Spain in partnership with Purac late last year.

Target applications for their succinic acid include butanediol (withcurrent market estimated at 2bn lbs), adipic acid (6 bn lbs),biodegradable polymers and other drop-in applications (70m lbs).


Notmuch new information was gleaned from DSM’s presentation (includingwhat type of feedstock and bacteria used in their fermentation) but thecompany did say that they’re hoping to start building their firstcommercialized succinic acid production by 2011 and their second by2013.

Their demo plant in Lestrem, France, is expected to come online bythe end of 2009. Market opportunities the company is looking into fortheir succinic acid include biobased thermosets (DSM citedpoly-isosorbide succinate as an example), Bio-butanediol, plasticizer,renewable solvents, deicers, and renewable thermoplastics.

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