Interview: Glycos Biotechnologies

I have several interviews lined up for posting and most of them came from the recent BIO industrial biotechnology conference.

While the blog has previously mentioned Glycos Biotechnologies‘ activities, this is the first time that the green blogger had the pleasure of talking with CEO Rich Cilento. GlycosBio also deals with biochemical production mostly focusing (for now) on transforming crude glycerin and waste fats into chemicals such as ethanol, isoprene, acetone, hydrogen, 1,2 propanediol and other organic acids such as lactic acid, succinic acid and formic acid.

GlycosBio announced in May that it is building a biochemical plant as well as a biotech R&D facility in Malaysia under a collaboration with the country’s biotech hub Bio-XCell Sdn. Bhd. The company plans to produce bio-based acetone, technical grade ethanol and isoprene using crude glycerine as feedstock from their new 20,000 – 40,000 tonne/year facility, expected to come onstream in 2012.

More about the investment in Malaysia on this video:

Here are other salient points on GlycosBIO’s long-term strategies:

  • While GlycosBIO’s technology/microorganism can use sugars and cellulosics, the company’s initial feedstock strategy is to use glycerine, waste fats/oils, free fatty acid distillates and other oleochemical processing by-products because of their economic advantage over sugars/starch/cellulosic feedstock.
  • Oleochemical and biodiesel manufacturers can significantly increase the value of crude glycerine by converting them to value-added chemicals instead of just refining crude glycerine. Ratio of the value of refined glycerine to value-added chems, 2:10-15.
  • The company can pick and choose what type of high value chemicals to produce depending on domestic market needs. In Malaysia, for example, isoprene is a strategic product because of large domestic latex industry. Technical grade ethanol (about 96-97% purity) is said to be a high margin niche market in Malaysia while acetone is a big market in Asia. The company is also looking at high potential market for lactic acid in Southeast Asia.
  • Construction of the Malaysian facility is expected to start by November-December and start-up is expected in the fourth quarter of 2012. Investment of the facility is pegged at around $15-$20m.
  • The company’s long-term strategy is to form joint venture partnerships with oleochemical/biodiesel producers where they can benefit from additional revenue in making biochemicals by bolting on GlycosBIO’s technology in their existing infrastructure.
  • There are also plans to partner with end market players especially in the development of glycerine-based isoprene for use in latex. R&D and pilot facility are going to be built alongside the commercial facility in Malaysia for the purpose of isoprene development.
  • GlycosBio is currently operating a 150,000 liters/year pilot facility outside Houston, which started operation in November 2009. The rapid implementation of their plant facility in Malaysia is GlycosBIO’s quickest way for commercialization opportunity.

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