Amyris and Michelin in bio-isoprene

Okay, let’s start with this one after numerous “green chemical-related” press releases (and webcasts) came out and still coming out this week – at a critical time when I’m chained to deadlines for ICIS Chemical Business (ICB)…such is life.  

Amyris is on fire as usual with various collaboration announcement but this one to me is big news in the industrial commodity chemicals sector especially if a well-known rubber tire manufacturer such as Europe-based Michelin is involved. 

The companies said they are working to develop the use of Amyris’ farnesene-based isoprene (under the trademark No Compromise®) for the production of renewable-based rubber tires and other rubber-based products such as adhesives, coatings and sealants. Both companies will contribute funding and technical resources although no financial details were disclosed.

Amyris expects to to begin commercialization of the bio-isoprene to other customers in 2015, while Michelin is reportedly committing off-take volumes on a ten years basis.

Amyris also announced in August its collaboration with Japanese chemical firm Kuraray to develop high-performance polymers by replacing petroleum-based butadiene and isoprene feedstock with Amyris’ farnesene molecule.

New sources of isoprene as well as other rubber materials such as butadiene are becoming critical as according to our ICIS colleagues who cover the rubber chemicals industry, the trend towards cracking lighter feedstocks with the advent of North American shale gas is limiting production of these chemicals. Isoprene has traditionally been produced as a byproduct of the thermal cracking of naptha to produce ethylene or via C4 refinery stream synthesis.

Going back to a bio-rubber chemicals article I wrote for ICB in July (it’s free access!), I noted back then some of the developers within the bio-isoprene area such as Goodyear in partnership Genencor (now owned by DuPont), and GlycosBio’s glycerin-based isoprene. 

The blog has not yet heard any recent updates from Genencor/Goodyear on their bio-isoprene. Genencor initially said early this year that the company is exploring a pilot bio-isoprene plant that could be built next year in Iowa.

GlycosBio, meanwhile, has been busy in Malaysia collaborating with Bio-XCell to construct GlycosBio’s first commercial plant within Bio-XCell’s industrial park.GlycosBio expects construction of its plant to start in the fourth quarter this year with completion in Q4 2012.

Other recent biobased rubber chemicals development announcements include:

  • Lanxess’ planned bio-EPDM (ethylene-propylene-diene) monomer production in Brazil as well as the company’s collaboration progress with Gevo on bio-isobutene;
  • Genomatica’s milestone in producing pound quantities of bio-butadiene
  • France-based Global Bioenergies’ partnership with Polish rubber manufacturer Synthos to develop a new process for renewable-based butadiene
  • Elevance’s collaboration with Hutchinson Worldwide to evaluate the use of renewable products as processing aids in Hutchinson’s rubber compounds;
  • Ford has teamed up with Recycled Polymeric Materials (RPM) for the use of gaskets and seals made from 25% post-consumer particulate from recycled tires and 17% soybean-based materials on Ford’s 2011 model vehicles such as F-150, Escape, Mustang, Focus and Fiesta.


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