There were two recent press releases about levulinic acid that were just announced the past two weeks and it was an interesting coincidence that we just published a comprehensive chemical profile about levulinic acid in Tecnon OrbiChem’s February BioMaterials newsletter issue.
For those who are not familiar with levulinic acid, it is a non-toxic organic compound that has been
listed as one of the Top Value Added Chemicals from Biomass by the US Department of Energy (DOE) in 2004. The bifunctionality of the keto and carboxyic acid groups (seen in the formula here) makes levulinic acid a versatile chemical intermediate that can be converted into many other useful chemical products such as in solvents, pesticides, herbicides, polymer resins, cosmetics, and even gasoline or diesel components.
Segetis is the only company so far that the blog has covered when it comes to levulinic acid although the chemical is primarily derived through production of 5-HMF (5-hydroxymethyl-2-furfuraldehyde), where companies such as AVA Biochem and Avantium are known to be active in this chemical’s development.
This week, GFBiochemicals, a start-up biochemicals company based in Italy, announced that it is starting commercial production of its levulinic acid this summer using a proprietary technology at its Caserta, Italy, plant, with an initial capacity of 2,000 tons/year. The company plans to scale up to an 8,000 ton/year production by 2017. The process, using a continuous production approach, will use biomass for feedstock. By-products include furfural, acetic acid and formic acid.
GFBiochemicals’ process technology has been developed and tested at demo-scale since 2008 at Caserta. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with this company and I’m hoping to get more info soon. In the meantime, the management team is pretty impressive so far with past experiences from DSM, Chemtex Group, Shell, Air Products, Ashland, Norsk Hydro, and KMG Chemicals. The CEO, Maxim Katinov, is experienced in global finance in renewable technology industries having managed large capital projects at Camco International and Ekoinvest.
In another levulinic acid news, Italian companies, Bio-on S.p.A and Eridania Sadam S.p.A, have announced collaboration on developing and optimizing production of levulinic acid. The companies said current commercial levulinic acid processes fails to meet European environmental standards.
Bio-on has been working on PHA bioplastics while Eridania Sadam is an Italian agro-industrial group operating in the production, packaging and marketing of sugar, sweeteners, and other foodstuffs. Eridania Sadam is investing EUR 1.8 million to the project.
The project aims to convert the by-products of the sugar industry into levulinic acid, optimizing innovative processes and reduce production costs.