This spring, BASF, already the largest global producer of BDO, announced that it would begin production of 1,4-butanediol based on renewable feedstock using Genomatica's patented one-step dextrose-based fermentation process. Six months following that announcement, and well on schedule BASF, revealed that it produced its first commercial volumes of 1,4-butanediol (BDO) from renewable raw material. The company declined to disclose the quantity of the available material, but said that the in-house tests were all done and that the sample material was now ready to be commercialized by customers.
The quality of BDO based on renewable raw material is comparable to petrochemical-based BDO. BASF plans to expand its portfolio with selected BDO derivatives based on renewable feedstock, including polytetrahydrofuran (PolyTHF). PolyTHF is primarily used to make elastic spandex fibers for a large variety of textiles, including underwear, outerwear, sportswear and swimsuits. It also serves as a chemical building block for thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) used to make hoses, films and cable sheathing. Other applications include thermoplastic polyetheresters, polyetheramides and cast elastomers for the production of for example wheels for skateboards and inline skates. BDO is used in the manufacturing of technical plastics, polyurethanes, solvents, electronic chemicals and elastic fibers.
The starting materials for the production of conventional BDO are natural gas, butane, butadiene and propylene. BASF currently produces BDO and BDO equivalents at its sites in Ludwigshafen, Germany; Geismar, Louisiana; Chiba, Japan; Kuantan, Malaysia; and Caojing, China.
In July, BASF announced it was increasing its global capacities for BDO to 650,000 metric tons and for PolyTHF to 350,000 metric tons within the coming two years.