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Mitsubishi and BioAmber join forces on biobased PBS

BioAmber and Mitsubishi Chemical have joined forces to find a lower cost bioderived succinic acid that will in turn reduce the price of Mitsubishi's patented polybutylene succinate (PBS) resin, a renewable biodegradable polymer, while boosting its bio content to more than 50% and accelerating its growth.

BioAmber Inc. (Minneapolis) has signed a strategic agreement with Mitsubishi Chemical that makes the company and its Asian distribution partner, Mitsui & Co., the exclusive suppliers of biobased succinic acid to Mitsubishi Chemical. The three companies are also undertaking a feasibility study on a new succinic acid production facility to be built next to Mitsubishi's planned PBS production plant in Thailand. A BioAmber spokesperson told PlasticsToday the feasibility study will be completed by the end of the year. At this time, Mitsubishi uses succinic acid derived from maleic anhydride, while BioAmber's is derived from renewable feedstocks like glucose from wheat starch. "Longer term, we are looking at using biomass such as forestry or agricultural waste," the spokesperson said. 

BioAmber is also supplying Mitsubishi's European operation with biobased succinic acid, and it has secured the right to source biobased PBS from Mitsubishi Chemical for its modified PBS polymers, which are marketed through BioAmber's Sinoven Biopolymers subsidiary.

Shigeru Handa, general manager of Mitsubishi Chemicals sustainable resources business development department called the newly announced partnership with BioAmber an "integral part of our PBS market development strategy."

In addition to Mitsui and Mitsubishi, BioAmber, which claims to have the world's only dedicated biobased succinic acid plant, also partners with Cargill and DuPont Applied Biosciences. In addition to its office and research lab in Minneapolis, BioAmber has additional offices in Montreal and Shanghai, with a production plant in Pomacle, France. That facility has an annual production capacity of 3000 tonnes.

In September 2009, BASF SE and CSM nv announced a joint agreement to develop biobased succinic acid. Both companies had technologies for the industrial fermentation and down-stream processing of biobased succinic acid. The companies started production of commercial volumes in the second quarter of 2010. 

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