France-based renewable chemicals company, Global Bioenergies, has speeded up its commercialization plans as it sets up its new industrial fermentation pilot unit in Pomacle, France, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of September, and be ready for a first fermentation run producing bio-based isobutene by the end of the year.
The pilot plant has a maximum capacity of 10 tons/year and will focus on the production of methacrylic acid using bio-based oxidation-grade isobutene in collaboration with Arkema. Global Bioenergies said it is currently producing kilograms of bio-isobutene at its site in Evry using a conventional fermentation pilot, which was adapted for isobutene production. The new fermentation unit in Pomacle will go through the mechanical and functional commissioning by the end of September.
The company has also recently signed a contract with the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical Biotechnological Processes for the commissioning and the operation of Global Bioenergies’ second industrial pilot plant to be built on the Leuna, Germany, refinery site. The pilot facility has two 5,000 liter-fermenters and a complete purification system, which is designed for a production capacity of up to 100 tons/year producing high-purity isobutene usable for the manufacturing of plastics and elastomers as well as drop-in biofuels such as isooctane.
It has chosen Linde Group to carry out the engineering of the pilot plant at the Leuna site. It has also been granted a EUR5.7 million from the German Ministry of Research for the project. Early this year, it has partnered with German car manufacturer, Audi, on the development of isobutene-derived isooctane, a high-performance biofuel for gasoline engines. It can be used in any blending ratio with all standard fuels for gasoline motors. According to Global Bioenergies, bio-isooctane does not present the drawbacks associated with ethanol or isobutanol, which lead to limited blending ratios and lower mileage per liter.
In May, the company has secured a EUR3 million equity line from Yorkville Advisors, a US-based investor, for over a period of 3 years. The funds will mainly finance the industrialization of its isobutene process along with the development of the its butadiene and propylene programs, as well as the launch other new research programs such as ethylene, n-butene and isoprene.
The company has been collaborating with Synthos for the production of bio-butadiene in rubber application. The company said it could also partner with other companies looking at bio-butadiene for other applications such as in the manufacture of ABS plastics, in carpet backing, in coatings and in nylon production. Global Bioenergies recently received a patent approval from the US Patent Office relative to its bio-based butadiene process. It has also received two patents in Australia that cover the isobutene process as well as other, more generic aspects of the production of bio-sourced olefins and associated intermediate.
The company is looking to license its bio-isobutene processing technology as soon as 2015 and if everything runs smoothly, estimates the possibility of a commercial plant that could start around 2018 by one of its licensees.
|Future fermentation facilities of Global Bioenergies in Leuna, Germany, which will have a capacity of 100 tpy of polymer-grade isobutene.
Photo Source: Fraunhofer