Genomatica Wheels and Deals With Bio-Based Chemicals | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: September 1, 2011

Genomatica Wheels and Deals With Bio-Based Chemicals

Renewables: Firm inks butanediol partnership, makes bio-based butadiene
Department: ACS News
Keywords: Genomatica, Novamont, butanediol, BDO

Bio-based chemicals start-up Genomatica will form a joint venture with Italian plastics maker Novamont to produce butanediol (BDO) from renewable feedstocks. The venture will include a plant, with a capacity of 40 million lbs per year, to be built in Italy and begin production by the end of 2012. Novamont will use the intermediate chemical to make its compostable Mater-Bi plastic, and Genomatica will have an option for a portion of the production.

Genomatica’s BDO is derived from sugar, which is fed to an engineered strain of Escherichia coli. The chemical is a feedstock for polyurethanes, spandex, and other materials.

Novamont will convert an existing industrial site to produce BDO, using Genomatica’s technology. Both firms will share in the earnings. “The scale-up of Genomatica’s BDO process will support the growth of Mater-Bi Bioplastics in line with Novamont’s strategy of integrated biorefineries reviving de-industrialized sites,” said Novamont CEO, Catia Bastioli, in a statement.

In a separate announcement, Genomatica says it has produced lb quantities of butadiene made from renewable feedstocks. Butadiene is used to make synthetic rubber, engineering polymers, and latex. The company points out that butadiene is commonly derived as a byproduct of ethylene cracking, but those operations have increasingly turned to lighter feedstocks derived from cheaper natural gas, rather than crude oil, which has resulted in less production of C3 and C4 chemicals.

Genomatica suggests that supply constraints will cause chemical firms to look for other sources of butadiene. The next steps in its butadiene project development will be to continue to improve process performance and economics.

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