Here's my recent interview with Verdezyne's vice president of business development Damien Perriman talking about the company's update on their bio-adipic acid project.Verdezyne announced in February their milestone development in the production of adipic acid via fermentation process using either sugar, vegetable oils or alkanes feedstock.
The company has been working with bio-adipic acid for 12 months and aims to scale up from lab to pilot production in the next 12 months. Perriman said they are working to partner for the pilot-scale level and if everything will go well, commercialization could happen in the 2014-2015 timeframe.
"Our business model is to form a partnership or joint venture for the scale-up for both pilot and demonstration. We aim to license our organism and the process for making bio-adipic acid as this is such an enormous market, we feel that licensing our process is the best way to reach the entire market in a faster manner," said Perriman.Verdezyne is currently scaling up its bio-adipic acid process using vegetable oil such as coconut oil as feedstock. According to Perriman in his presentation (see below) at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing in June, the adipic acid market is still a large growing market at 4.8bn lbs last year with aggregate growth rate of 4.3%/year. Major markets include automotive, textiles, carpets and coatings.
Because of the intensive chemical processing and numerous steps of producing the traditional petroleum-based adipic acid ( naphtha --> benzene --> cyclohexane --> adipic acid), fermentation-based adipic acid, which is a one-step process, gives a more cost manufacturing advantage of at least 20% depending on the feedstock selected. Perriman noted that their processing will be cost neutral if petroleum will go as low as $40/bbl.
Verdezyne also believes that green chemicals such as their bio-adipic acid can command a premium in certain market applications like in carpet, engineered plastics and in polyurethane for sports materials (especially if branded companies can expertly market their products!).
"A smaller scale fermentation plants, which could be built for a fraction of the volume risk, can be distributed regionally based on different feedstocks and therefore provides less capital risk compared to a new large scale chemical plant," said Perriman.
Verdezyne also briefly mentioned its latest partnership with Lallemand Ethanol Technology to develop and commercialize high-yield ethanol producing yeast. Perriman said they will not venture into the biofuels area but that their metabolic engineering tools is suitable to do this kind of project. The yeast is expected to increase ethanol yield by 10% for every corn cob use and 30% increase in ethanol production.
When asked how the industrial biotechnology progresses this year, Perriman noted especially during the BIO conference that more branded companies are interested in what the industry has been developing.
"We finally appear on their radar and they are taking notice. They're sending people to participate in the discussion and is actually becoming more aware of what we are developing in the pipeline," said Perriman.Perriman also noted increasing announcements on commercialization of renewable-based chemicals such as DuPont's propanediol, increasing competition within the bio-succinic acid area and several companies planning to have their commercial facilities start in the next few years.