GFBiochemicals (Milan, Italy), a company that specializes in the research, development and production of biobased chemicals and fuels, has announced that it is starting commercialization of levulinic acid at its plant in Caserta, Italy. The company says that it has developed a breakthrough production process for levulinic acid that has been successfully tested at demo-scale since 2008. It is now undergoing further development at industrial scale.
Levulinic acid was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of 12 biobased building block chemicals of the future. Levulinic acid is a carbon-based compound (C5H8O3) with potential to generate value-added derivative chemicals and biofuels. It looks to be poised to become a new platform chemical with derivative products in a broad range of markets. In plastics, it is to be used as raw material for the manufacturing of plasticizers, solvents and polyols for polyurethane foams and is seen as a potential replacement to phthalate plasticizer added to manufacture PVC, the largest consumed commodity plastic.
GFBiochemicals' new production line at the Caserta plant is scheduled to come online in the summer of 2015 with an annual capacity of 2,000 MT, making it the world's largest levulinic acid plant producing directly from biomass. This plant will provide design and operating data for future production, allowing annual capacity to scale up to 8,000 MT/yr by 2017.
A new, experienced management team has been put in place to take GFBiochemicals forward. Marcel van Berkel, who spent over 25 years at Solvay and DSM, including in DSM's Bio-based Products and Services division, is GFBiochemicals Chief Commercial Officer. Davide Gremmi, previously of Chemtex Group, has been appointed Chief Financial Officer. Marcello Taglietti, with over 20 years' experience under his belt at, among other companies, Air Products and Ashland, is Chief Operating Officer. Rudy Parton and Aris de Rijke will spearhead R&D as Director Technology & Applications Development and Director Technology & Engineering. Both have over 25 years' experience at DSM and Shell.