GranBio and Rhodia ink pact for biobased n-butanol, in Brazil, from bagasse

August 12, 2013 |

In Brazil, GranBio and Rhodia have signed an agreement to create a partnership to produce bio n-butanol. Bio n-butanol is made from sugar cane straw and bagasse, the same raw material that is used to manufacture second-generation ethanol and which is abundant in Brazil.

Under the partnership, the companies plan to build the world’s first biomass-based n-butanol plant in Brazil, which will enter into operation in 2015. The plant will produce 100 kilotons per year of solvents.

Both companies will benefit from agreements that each of them has already made with companies that own the technology.

The project is a key step for GranBio and Rhodia in the manufacturing of chemicals made from renewable sources.

“The partnership with Rhodia is fully aligned with our business partnership model and our strategy to develop solutions that can replace fossil fuels and chemicals with renewable products,” says Bernardo Gradin, CEO of GranBio.

“This innovative project reflects our focus on technologies based on renewable resources, and the partnership with Brazil’s GranBio demonstrates our confidence in the country’s great potential in this field,” says Vincent Kamel, CEO of Coatis, a Solvay Group business unit based in Brazil.

An essential chemical in the production of acrylates and methacrylates, n-butanol is widely used in the paint and solvent industries, in which Solvay is South America’s market leader.

The investment in the biomass-based n-butanol plant requires the approval of the companies’ boards. The structure of the agreement is to be submitted for clearance by Brazil’s antitrust body, CADE.

Cobalt and Rhodia

Last summer, Cobalt Technologies and Rhodia announced they would begin joint development and operation of a biobutanol demonstration facility in Brazil. The Cobalt/Rhodia plant is planned to utilize sugarcane bagasse to make n-butanol; bagasse is used at sugar mills to provide process energy to drive the mill and to supply power to the local grid; the Cobalt project will utilize that fraction of the bagasse that generates power for the grid, or any residual biomass that is burned as waste.

Work was scheduled to begin in August 2012 and move to a mill site in early 2013 for integration testing. Operational testing at the demonstration plant was expected to be completed by mid-2013.  The exact production capacity of the plant was not disclosed.

Cobalt and American Process

Back in 2011 Cobalt Technologies and American Process announced an agreement to build the world’s first industrial-scale cellulosic biorefinery to produce biobutanol. GranBio now owns 25 percent of American Process.

Under the Cobalt-API agreement, the companies had planned to integrate Cobalt’s patent pending continuous fermentation and distillation technology into American Process’s Alpena Biorefinery, currently under construction in Alpena, Michigan.

API’s GreenPower+ proprietary process extracts hemicelluloses sugars from woody biomass using steam or hot water and converts them to fermentable sugars in a cost effective and technically robust process. The extracted biomass is returned- with consistent low moisture composition- to the biomass boiler for the production of steam and/or electricity – while sugars are converted to final bio-products.

Funded in part by an $18 million U.S. Department of Energy grant and a $4 million grant from the State of Michigan, the API Alpena Biorefinery will demonstrate the conversion of hemicelluloses extracted from woody biomass, to fermentable sugars that can be used for production of ethanol and, via Cobalt’s technology, will demonstrate that these sugars can also produce butanol.

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