Genomatica, a San Diego based producer of green chemicals has entered into a joint venture with leading bioplastics producer Novamont for the first industrial plant in Europe producing butanediol (BDO) directly from renewable feedstocks. Novamont plans to use the biobased BDO for the synthesis of its biodegradable polyester Origo-Bi instead of the BDO currently in use that is derived from fossil fuels. In the future, the technology platform based on BDO may also be used for the formulation of new bioplastics. Novamont will have a majority of the equity in the newly formed joint venture, and Genomatica a minority interest.
Under the agreement, Novamont is converting the existing Bioitalia amino acids plant in Adria, Italy into a facility to produce biobased BDO using the process developed by Genomatica. If all goes according to schedule, the plant, which has a projected capacity of around 20,000 tons/yr, should start producing bio-BDO by the middle of 2013.The performance of biobased BDO meets the standards set for petroleum-based BDO and lifecycle analyses show that its production consumes close to 60% less energy than acetylene-based BDO. Combined with the lower CO2 emissions and the fact that no organic solvent is needed for fermentation, production expenses for biobased BDO are expected to be 15-30% less than petroleum-based BDO, with biobased BDO becoming competitive at oil prices of $45 per barrel or at natural gas prices of $3.50 per million Btu.
Says Novamont CEO Catia Bastioli: "Genomatica's BDO is the exact same chemical we've been using, and is the direct equivalent of petroleum-based BDO but with a smaller environmental footprint."
Novamont has committed to purchasing all of the output from the plant, while Genomatica may purchase a portion at its discretion to support further market development. The agreement also contemplates Novamont building and operating a second BDO plant using Genomatica's process, which is expected to use biomass sugars as the renewable feedstock.