Albemarle: Biofuels Digest’s 5-Minute Guide

January 29, 2013 |

Company description:

Manufacturer of Specialty Chemicals

451 Florida St, Baton Rouge, LA 70801

Year founded:
1994. Albemarle was formed in 1994 as a the specialty chemicals spin off from Ethyl Corporation.

Major Investors or stock symbol:


Type of Technology(ies):

Catalysts, Polymer Additives, Fine Chemicals. Subcategories for catalysis include catalysis for the production of Biofuels from a wide range of feedstocks, including second generation materials like wood, municipal waste, agricultural residue, and algae.


The catalytic technologies being developed for the conversion of 1st and 2nd generation feedstocks will be able to handle a wide variety of raw materials. The focus of the developments for the next generation of catalysts is directed at using renewable carbon sources that are not in competition with food.

Fuel Type (if applicable):

The heterogeneous catalytic technologies being developed by Albemarle and her partners are directed at the production of fungible fuels. This means the products can be mixed in any percentage with traditional fuel types. Albemarle’s researchers are targeting all types of fuel to be derived from renewable sources, so for example gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and fuel for stationary power units are being developed. As this is still in full development, current processes producing FAME and ethanol are also under study.

In response to increased demand for alternatives fuels, Albemarle has developed a line of catalyst that will facilitate the production of biofuels from biomass.  These catalysts make up our GoBioTM portfolio.

Among our GoBio products, Albemarle offers catalytic solutions for renewable diesel and biodiesel production using two primary processes. In the first process, vegetable oils and fats are reacted with methanol to produce fatty acid methyl-esters (FAME or biodiesel). In the second process, vegetable oils and fats are converted into paraffin via a refinery-based hydrotreating process.  The process also utilizes a heterogeneous catalyst which leads to significant process improvements.   Albemarle’s heterogeneous catalysts have been successfully used in the NExBTL® process, a process developed by Finnish oil company Neste Oil.  The first commercial NExBTL units are now in operation and are producing high quality renewable diesel.

We also interact with a diverse group of companies to investigate their specific biomass conversion needs. In addition to oil companies, these organizations include technology providers and engineering firms.

Fuel Cost (per US gallon):
A major target for the researchers of Albemarle is to create technology that will produce renewable fuels at a competitive pricing. At the moment, we consider all developments that start being economically attractive from a crude oil price around 70-80$/bl to be worthwile.

Offtake partners:
We are the world’s largest supplier of heterogeneous biofuel catalysts, as we are the co-developer and sole supplier of the Neste NExBTL units. We are also the leading catalyst developer in many consortia, notably the recently awarded DoE-funded NABC program. Next to these, we have many flourishing partnerships, unfortunately these often have a confidential nature.

In the development of our catalysts, we closely adhere to the principles of Green Chemistry and Sustainable Business Practices. The products we develop are based on relatively benign chemistry and chemicals. Most catalytic materials are inorganic, and easily recyclable. From the earliest conception of catalyst development, the production, use, and disposal are taken into consideration.

Top Past Milestones

  • Largest global catalyst supplier to the biorefining market
  • New heterogeneous transesterification catalyst
  • New mixed alcohol catalyst production process for cellulosic biorefineries
  • In March 2011, Albemarle Corporation announced the acquisition of Catilin Inc. Based in Ames, Iowa, Catilin is a technology leader in the development and application of heterogeneous biodiesel catalysis. Catilin’s technology and products will further strengthen Albemarle’s offerings for the renewable fuels market.
  • In November 20122, Albemarle was named “Biodiesel Corporation of the Year” by the World Refining Association during the Biofuels 2011 Annual Meeting in Amsterdam.  The award was presented to representatives from Albemarle’s Alternative Fuel Technologies (AFT) division.  The award recognizes industry leaders that have made substantial contributions in the field of renewable fuels, which in this case was for their successes in the development and commercialization of highly engineered basic transesterification catalysts for the production of fatty acid methyl-ester  biodiesel.
  • In March 2012, the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake announced a contract award to Albemarle Corporation, a leading specialty chemicals company, to complete its first biojet fuel production run based on bio n-butanol provided by Cobalt Technologies, a leading developer of next generation bio n-butanol.   For this production run, Albemarle will use NAWCWD technologies to process Cobalt’s bio n-butanol into renewable jet fuel at its Baton Rouge, La. processing facility.
  • Funded by the NAWCWD, this initial manufacturing contract by Albemarle kicked-off in February 2012.  Upon completion, the resulting jet fuel will be tested by the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center – Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) as a continuing process for military certification through the Department of Defense.  Once this testing is completed, larger production runs will be undertaken to continue with flight testing.

Future Milestones

  • Improved catalyst for catalytic pyrolysis
  • Improved catalyst for pyrolysis oil upgrading
  • Improved catalysts for (bio)Syngas upgrading into hydrocarbons or alcohols
  • Improved NExBTL catalyst

Business Model:
Together with partners or in consortia we are developing heterogeneous catalysts that are essential to convert biomass into usable transportation fuels. Once a catalyst has proven its usability in a certain process we manufacture the catalysts for our partners.

Competitive Edge(s):

With over 50 years of experience in developing and manufacturing catalysts. Albemarle is leveraging its extensive knowledge of catalysis, catalyst preparation and production into the Biofuels arena. Tooled with state-of-the-art equipment like High Throughput Experimentation and analysis tools, Albemarle is well poised to quickly and efficiently develop and commercialize catalytic routes to renewable fuels from non-fossil carbon sources.

Distribution, Research, Marketing or Production Partnerships or Alliances. Includes, but not limited to:

1. Neste – Production
2. NREL led NABC Consortium
3. PNNL led consortium
4. EERC – Research
5. Velocys – Research
6. Biomass Technology Group (BTG) – Research
7. JDA with major US based oil refiner and biomass provider. (Confidential)

Albemarle operates in all the aforementioned stages with respect to catalysis


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