Just like Coca-Cola’s announcement of partnering with Gevo, Virent and Avantium, the renewable chemicals world takes notice when chemical giants such as BASF, Dow Chemical and DuPont announced further investments in this field.
BASF’s $30m investment in US cellulosic sugar developer Renmatix signals the German chemical firm’s intent to expand its feedstock source especially for its renewable chemicals and materials portfolio.
What interests BASF is Renmatix’s Plantrose platform which can produce low-cost, large volume quantities of industrial sugar from lignocellulosic biomass (wood, cane bagasse or straw) using supercritical hydrolysis (supercritical water at high temperature and pressure). This is unlike the traditional approach of breaking down lignocellulose using acids or specially tailored enzymes (as what enzyme producers Codexis, Novozymes, Genencor, Verenium are offering).
Few are pursuing supercritical fluid routes for biomass, said Renmatix, and none are near the scale that the company is said to have achieved.
Renmatix currently has a pilot facility that converts 100 kg/day of dry biomass into xylose and glucose monomers, as well as a demo facility that converts 3 dry tons/day of biomass into xylose and glucose sugars as samples for potential customers. The facilities are located in Kennesaw, Ga.
Renmatix plans to have a commercial scale facility that can produce more than 100,000 tons/year of cellulosic sugar as soon as they can cough up about $100m for the facility. With $50m coming from BASF and other investors, I guess Renmatix is halfway there.
BASF has been greatly expanding its renewable chemicals portfolio over the last few years especially in the bioplastic arena. BASF, by the way, is one of the top 4 global BDO suppliers and getting a cellulosic sugar-based BDO is probably one of BASF’s agenda.
Here are some of BASF’s 2011 bio-based chemical/bioplastic activities (as taken from the blog):
- BASF is taking part in research activities on new biocatalytic amine syntheses and on the use of enzymes for the synthesis of functional polymers from renewable feedstock.
- BASF has developed latex for carpet backing adhesives to be made with a minimum of 10% renewable materials.Trademarked STYROFAN ECO 4810, the latex reportedly achieves key product performance levels targeted by both residential and commercial carpet manufacturers.
- BASF, which said that it has partnered with automotive manufacturer Ford in developing castor oil-based foam product for Ford’s 2012 Focus instrument panel. The foam contains more than 10% renewable content
- BASF and Purac formed a bio-succinic acid JV and aims to be the first commercial bio-succinic acid producer in the market (by 2013, the blog believes) with a 25,000 tons/year capacity that will be located in Purac’s site near Barcelona, Spain.
- BASF has successfully completed its compostable bag pilot project that uses BASF’s Ecovio FS film. in the district of Bad Durkheim, Germany.
- BASF started its newly expanded Ecoflex biodegradable plastic plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The plant’s production capacity increased from 14,000 to 74,000 tonnes/year.