Evonik, BioAmber partner on catalysts for sustainable chemicals

By Ron Kotrba | July 30, 2012

Chemical company and biodiesel catalyst supplier Evonik Industries entered into a long-term collaboration with BioAmber Inc. to develop and manufacture catalysts for production of 1,4- butanediol (BDO), tetrahydrofurane (THF) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) from BioAmber's biobased platform chemical, succinic acid.

BioAmber, a leading maker of biosuccinic acid, licensed BDO hydrogenation catalyst technology from DuPont in 2010. Since then, BioAmber, Evonik and the Center for Applied Catalysis at Seton Hall University in New Jersey have worked together to improve the technology. At the same time, Evonik and BioAmber have begun to develop a new generation of BDO catalysts.

BioAmber operates the world’s only dedicated production plant for biosuccinic acid in Pomacle, France, with a 350,000-liter commercial-scale fermenter. With Mitsui & Co., BioAmber broke ground on a biosuccinic acid plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, scaled at 17,000 metric tons, scheduled for operation late next year. The company plans to expand capacity at the Sarnia plant to 34,000 tons, in addition to build a BDO plant scaled at 23,000 tons, in 2014.

“Through our collaboration with Evonik, we have secured the expertise and capabilities we need to rapidly bring competitive BDO and THF technology to market,” said Jean-Francois Huc, BioAmber CEO. “We are fortunate to have a partner of Evonik’s caliber who can both optimize and manufacture our immediate catalyst needs and also develop with us a new generation of catalysts.”  

Wilfried Eul, senior vice president and head of Evonik’s Catalysts Business Line, said, “Chemicals from renewable feedstock for our daily life products become increasingly important as replacements for crude oil based products. The manufacturing of renewable chemicals very often entails biotechnological steps and catalytic conversion steps. Catalysts are not off-the-rack products; they need to be specially tailored to every individual synthesis reaction and process condition. Evonik is proud to innovate together with BioAmber as a leading company in the biobased succinic acid field, supporting our growth strategy based on resource efficiency.”

BDO, THF and GBL are high-volume industrial chemicals used in a wide range of applications, including polymers, paints, adhesives and solvents. Today, these products, which have a market of $4 billion, are made from petrochemicals.


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