Genomatica’s cellulosic BDO in Europe

As previously mentioned, Genomatica recently announced its plans to construct a bio-butanediol (BDO) demonstration facility in Rivalta, Italy, this time using cellulosic feedstock in collaboration with engineering firm Chemtex, a subsidiary of Italian PET producer M&G (Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi).

By the way, M&G is currently building what the company claimed to be the world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy, with a 13m gal/year capacity expected to start production next year. Chemtex is using its PROESA process technology to produce the cellulosic ethanol, and Genomatica said it will also use the PROESA process for its bio-BDO production. According to Chemtex, key features of the PROESA technology includes:

  • Capability to use a large variety of biomass as collected
  • Unique pre-treatment process that produces high quality and low cost sugar from cellulosic biomass for conversion to ethanol and/or biobased chemicals
  • High efficiency in viscosity reduction enzymatic hydrolysis
  • Simultaneous fermentation of C5 and C6 sugars
  • Energy integration with high efficiency burning of lignin
Genomatica said it will have exclusive rights to the use of PROESA for bio-BDO production. The PROESA process is currently being demonstrated in a pilot scale at Chemtex’s R&D facility in Rivalta. Genomatica expects its cellulosic-based bio-BDO to start production at the Rivalta facility in 2012. The blog is waiting to hear how much bio-BDO will be produced at this facility.

The M&G Rivalta plant currently uses biomass feedstock such as arundo donax (tall perrenial grass) and sorghum; agricultural residues like sugarcane bagasse, wheat and rice straws; and poplar or eucalyptus wood.

“From both conventional sugars and biomass, our processes allow for greater profitability for chemical producers and partners than petro-based processes – even with no ‘green premium’. The comparison across different feedstocks depends on regional factors, and demonstrates why diversification is so critical to the industry.” – Genomatica

Genomatica will also start producing conventional sugar-based BDO this year at a demonstration facility in Decatur, Illinois, US, in partnership with Tate & Lyle. The company said it has not yet announced specific distribution for its bio-BDO but noted that it is seeing very strong demand for biobased chemicals in the European market as well as in Asia and North America.

The company plans to step into commercial scale around 2013 with expected plant capacity of 100m lbs/year (45,000 tonnes/year).

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