Genomatica achieves BDO demo scale

Genomatica said it has successfully produced bio-1,4 butanediol (BDO) from its first demonstration-scale 13,000 liter fermentation tank located at Tate & Lyle’s facility in Decatur, Illinois, 3 months after the companies announced their partnership.

The company did not disclose how much BDO was produced at the facility. The blog also asked Genomatica’s target commercial production capacity planned in late 2012 as well as where the location of this plant will be. No answer for these questions either.

As readers recall, Genomatica recently announced another planned demonstration facility in Rivalta, Italy, using cellulosic-based feedstock. The company also announced a partnership with Mitsubishi Chemical for the production and use of their bio-BDO for Mitsubishi’s planned 20,000 ton/year polybutylene succinate (PbS) plant in Thailand, which is expected to start in 2015. PbS is made from succinic acid and BDO.

I’ve actually interviewed key officials from Mitsubishi Chemicals regarding their bio-based chemicals strategies and will share information soon. In the meantime, Genomatica did not say where in Asia they are going to set up their BDO plant, which is expected to come onstream in 2014. I have a good hunch, however, that it will also be in Thailand since Mitsubishi pointed out this is a good, economical place to get their sugar feedstock via their Thai joint venture partner PTT Limited (who has a good connection to the government and to Thailand’s agriculture sector).

Genomatica also mentioned that the US Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded the company $5m to further develop its process for converting biomass to BDO. The grant was part of the $36m grant given to 6 projects including Genomatica’s to advance technology improvements and process integration needed to produce drop-in biofuels and bio-based chemicals.

Aside from Genomatica, other companies selected included California-based General Atomics for algal oils production; Michigan Biotechnology Institute (not sure what type of project they’re working on); HCL CleanTech, which uses hydrochloric acid hydrolysis to convert pre-extracted biomass feedstocks into fermentable sugars; Texas Engineering Experiment Station, also working on cellulosic biomass feedstock pretreatment; and Virent, for their development of biomass into jet fuel.

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