Green chemistry: Bioamber announce start of commercial production
Pomacle – French company Bioamber S.A.S. has beaten German chemistry giant BASF in the race to launch commercial production of bio-based succinic acid. The joint venture from US-based DNP Green Technology and ARD (Agro-industrie Recherches et Deloppements, www.a-r-d.fr) in France yesterday announced the start-up and commissioning of an industrial scale plant, which is to produce 2,000 metric tonnes of the chemical building block from renewable resources every year. Succinic acid can be chemically transformed to produce plastics, polyurethanes, polyesters, plasticisers, solvents and de-icers, among other products. Bioamber has said that it will produce succinic acid using a carbon dioxide-consuming bacterial fermentation process instead of the current petrochemical approach, which is based on maleic anhydride. This is good news for the environment, but questions remain as to its economic feasibility. The product is targeting a 210m-euro world market of approximately 30,000 metric tonnes per year that is expected to grow rapidly. Proponents of the idea that bio-based production processes can offer an economically feasible alternative to chemical production routes that rely on oil expect the market for succinic acid to eventually grow to 2.5bn euros. However, most chemical companies appear to be moving towards bio-based production processes because of the high volatility of oil prices. For this reason, a number of chemistry giants, including Mitsubishi Chemical Corp/Ajinomoto, Royal DSM/Roquette, and BASF/Purac, have established fermentation processes to produce succinic acid with the help of metabolically engineered bacteria. While Mitsubishi and DSM are yet to produce on a pilot scale, German world market leaders BASF announced in September that it will start a 4,000 tonne/year commercial production plant this year at a plant of partners Purac near Barcelona (see more...). While BASF’s process relies on fermentation of plant-derived glucose and glycerol with its proprietary bacterium BASFia succiniciproducens, Bioamber will produce the chemical building block with the help of a exclusively licenced E. coli bacterium. Bioamber has stated that it will immediately begin selling bio-based succinic acid to a variety of customers, and will build market demand as it negotiates the sale of licenses for large-scale succinic acid plants. According to Patrick Piot, Bioamber General Manager, the company has already reviewed 50 potential partners.