Company initiatives, Products

Rennovia produces 100% bio-based nylon

The quest to produce a 100% bio-based nylon 6,6 polymer has now come to fruition as Rennovia announced that it has produced and shipped samples of their RENNLON™100% bio-based nylon 6,6 polymer, believed to be the first produced worldwide. The bio-based nylon was made from the combination of Rennovia’s RENNLON™ adipic acid and RENNLON™ hexamethylenediamine (HMD or HMDA). No mention of Rennovia’s prospective partner who is sampling the 100% bio-based nylon product.

Last April, the blog posted an update on Rennovia’s developments for its bio-adipic acid and bio-HMDA. Rennovia has been able to produce both adipic acid and HMD using glucose for feedstock using its proprietary chemical catalytic process technology. Rennovia produces its bio-adipic acid by aerobic oxidation of glucose to produce glucaric acid, which then undergoes hydrodeoxygenation to produce adipic acid.

For Rennovia’s bio-HMDA, it is produced by hydrodeoxygenation of glucose to produce a key intermediate, which then undergoes amination to produce bio-HMDA. Production costs for both bio-adipic acid and bio-HMDA are projected to be 20-25% below that of conventional petroleum-based adipic acid and HMDA with a significantly lower per-pound capital cost.

The company reported that current global nylon 6,6 market is at 6bn pounds/year worth more than $6bn. Nylon 6,6 is a widely used high-performance engineering resin, used especially in the automotive market for its strength, light weight, and performance at high temperatures. Nylon-6,6 is also used in a wide range of fiber applications, including textiles, carpets, technical fibers and tire-cord.

Rennovia is targeting a commercial demonstration unit for its bio-adipic by 2014 with a fully integrated “mini-plant” designed to allow direct scale-up to the full commercial scale of 135,000 tons/year. Rennovia anticipates its first commercial-scale bio-adipic acid production in 2018. Both demonstration and commercial production is expected to be done with external partnerships.

As for the company’s bio-HMDA, Rennovia has supposedly already initiated pilot operation this quarter. The company anticipates pilot-scale operation through 2014 and then start an integrated mini-plant design and construction by late 2014.

Rennovia’s strategy is to demonstrate with (an) external partner/s product purity and full equivalence of their bio-based nylon 6,6 product from the integrated mini-plants, with all recycle loos closed. Their product is expected to be fully representative of the commercial-scale product. According to Rennovia, stringent purity specifications will need to be met for both bio-based adipic acid and HMDA to qualify for nylon 6,6 applications.

From past posts on bio-adipic acid, there are several possible routes for the production of this chemical:

  • Direct fermentation to adipic acid
  • Bio-based benzene –> KA Oil –> adipic acid
  • Muconic acid –> adipic acid
  • Bio-based butadiene –> adipic acid
  • Glucaric acid –> adipic acid

Other companies working on bio-adipic acid or looking to expand in this area include Verdezyne, DSM, Amyris (which acquired a bio-based adipic acid technology from the former Draths), Genomatica, BioAmber, and Aemetis.

Verdezyne is developing bio-adipic acid through direct fermentation using a yeast microorganism that can utilize sugar, plant-based oils or alkanes. The company recently announced a collaboration with Malaysia’s biotechnology investment agency, the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp) to assess Malaysia as the location for Verdezyne’s first biochemical production facility. Verdezyne is expected to use local feedstock such as palm kernel oil and palm fatty acid distillates.

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.

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