Company initiatives, R&D

Anellotech readies bio-BTX start

I just heard back from Myriant about their recent partnership announcement with Bayegan and I am going to update my last post about it soon. In the meantime, let me put out this news from Anellotech, which for some mysterious reason, have escaped my news radar for the past week or so.

It has been two years since I interviewed David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech. The company is developing a thermochemical catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) process for making aromatics using non-food biomass.

According to the company, it is planning to produce large quantities of biobased benzene and toluene (about 100 kilograms) to strategic partners for downstream product development purposes before the end of 2013. I would love to know who are those strategic partners :).

Similar sized xylene samples can also be made available, according to Anellotech.

The company plans to start its pilot-scale operation within its new 11,000 square feet Pearl River, New York, headquarter during the second half of 2013. Anellotech has also established a new laboratory in Pearl River with a dedicated team of over 20 engineers, scientists and business people.

Anellotech’s facilities in Pearl River, NY

Of course, the blog is curious of the company’s target commercialization timelines.

Now an interesting small information from the press release is that benzene is said to have hit an all-time high price this year, hence, the growing interest I guess. When I was sitting down with Tecnon OrbiChem analysts, it seems the market for benzene has been very volatile for the past year.

The commodity chemical is used as feedstock for polymers such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), styrene butyl rubber (SBR), nylon, polycarbonate and polystyrene.

Toluene, in the meantime is used to make toluene diisocyanate (for polyurethane foam used in packaging), as solvent, as well as octane booster in gasoline fuels.

“These large volume development lots will provide sufficient quantities for qualification of Anellotech’s green aromatics as drop-in feedstocks for use in downstream conversion into a variety of valuable derivatives. This will provide early customer assurance that green plastics can be sourced from renewable aromatics produced from Anellotech’s CFP technology.”

According to this article from Biomass magazine, the CFP process is said to be economical because:

  • All reactions occur in one single reactor
  • Feedstock is non-food biomass
  • Cost-effective catalyst
  • Based on established chemical engineering processes.

Anellotech has licensed its single-step CFP technology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where it was invented by Professor George W. Huber who was then working at the university and is now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The CFP technology enables non-edible renewable biomass to be processed in a fluidized-bed reactor into aromatics.

“The CFP process pretreatment is simple drying and grinding. It completes all chemical conversion steps in a single reactor and incorporates an economical Anellotech proprietary catalyst based on commercial zeolite catalysts commonly used in the refining and petrochemical industries. Use of non- food biomass, such as agricultural wastes, wood chips, corn stover, sugar cane bagasse, and fast growing energy crops like switchgrass makes this technology greener than alternative approaches that convert food-based sugars.”

The first US Patent covering the CFP Process was granted in October 2012 and many more patents are in the pipeline, according to Anellotech.

The company also announced the recent inclusion of Mann Lee as its new vice president of business development. Ms. Lee’s previous business development experiences include working in the petrochemical, oil and gas industries such as with Sinopec, and engineering firms ABB Lummus and CB&I.

Now, there are not really a lot of renewable chemical companies out there looking to directly develop biobased aromatics. Virent is the only company I recall developing BTX from biomass. Primus Green Energy is also said to be looking to use its biomass gasification and “syngas-to-green” patented process that be tuned up to make up to 80% aromatics. In an interview last year, Primus Green Energy said it was currently producing xylenes and toluenes in equal proportion but have not fully characterized the isomers that they were producing.

One of our fellow twitterers Niels Schenk, noted recently that researchers from the Groningen University in the Netherlands are also looking to develop bio-BTX in partnership with KNN Group (a company spinned off from Groningen University) and custom chemical manufacturing firm Syncom. The project is being co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the province of Groningen.

Bio-BTX yield

According to this article from Biobased Society, BioBTX company which is part of the KNN Group is now producing bio-BTX in kilogram amounts. Schenk, head of the Bio-BTX project, noted on the article that their proprietary process involves specific catalyst and reaction conditions, and can use waste feedstock such as wood, cellulose, lignin, miscanthus and de-inking sludge.

“Fossil BTX prices are rising, as a result of the advent of shale gas. Shale gas does not contain aromatics; we can easily produce the petrochemical building blocks ethylene and propylene from it, but we cannot produce longer chain hydrocarbons. Naphtha crackers do produce these base products, from fossil oil; but they now produce at less than their capacity, which results in BTX shortages on the market. That is an advantage to our process.” – Schenk

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


One Response to “Anellotech readies bio-BTX start”

  1. How do these processes affect our air quality

    Posted by Kathy kehr | November 20, 2014, 3:23 pm

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