Glucan Biorenewables: The Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

August 23, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoGlucan Biorenewables is producing furan derivatives from biomass.  The furfural platform will be used to launch other value-added co-products: 5-hydroxyl-methyl furfural (HMF) and downstream derivatives

The company’s TriVersa Process meets the need for a renewable, environmentally friendly process to deconstruct aggregated agricultural residues created from existing 1st generation industries, into high-end chemicals and advanced materials.

The unique process separates, then upgrades the three core components of biomass; cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Using no enzymes or intermediate separations, GlucanBio produces three distinct high yielding streams valued from $500 – $7,000/MT with overall yields >75% to enable low cost production. Patent protected, this technology performs hydrolysis reactions 100X faster than conventional aqueous processes.

GlucanBio’s model intersects the needs of businesses with excess biomass with companies who seek to capture significant share of the growing global renewable chemical market.

The Situation

Glucan has been getting hot of late. Signature triumph in 2015 has been winning the Renewable Chemistry Start-Up Award, ollowing a public vote with almost 8,000 votes cast, and after a jury of industry experts interviewed the 5 shortlisted candidates at the BIO World Congress in Montreal.

Short-term goals for the Company include plans to deliver a reliable source of furfural at competitive prices.  This platform will be used to launch other higher value products including 5-hydroxyl-methyl furfural (HMF) and its downstream derivatives.  The platform can take advantage of a variety of biomass feedstock including corn cob, corn stover, bagasse, and oat hulls to deliver biorenewable chemicals.

It’s a Nidus portfolio company, founded in April 2012 with technology from the laboratory of Dr. James Dumesic of University of Wisconsin-Madison and intellectual capital from the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals at Iowa State University.  This month, Nidus announced that Larry Clarke, who has more than 30 years experience in agribusiness, joined the partnership, and will serve as CEO for Glucan Biorenewables. In addition, the Company has built a strong start-up management team including Jim Dumesic Ph.D., Brent Shanks Ph.D. and Peter Keeling Ph.D. The Company has secured several federal and state grants and is currently funded by Nidus Partners.

Top past Milestones

Fractionation of multiple biomass types into high concentration and purity cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin

Simultaneous co-production of high purity cellulose, high yield furfural, and native lignin at bench scale from wood and palm oil empty fruit bunches

Research Collaboration with the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre in Malaysia

Top future Milestones

Closing on funding for the design, fabrication, and operation of a pilot-scale demonstration plant

Upgrading the GlucanBio unique lignin to a product with a value significantly higher than fuel

Financing and completing the basic engineering for the pioneer commercial-scale plant

Business Model

GlucanBio will make money through technology licensing to owner financed projects in exchange for a percentage of plant ownership, solvent sales for the plant fill, and providing engineering, operating, and business services. These agreements will be based on a partnering relationship to develop the technology and jointly achieve profits.

Competitive advantage

GlucanBio converts biomass to products within the biomass derived solvent gamma-valerolactone (GVL). Hydrolysis and dehydration reactions using GVL are 100X and 30X faster, respectively, than aqueous processes. This enables milder process conditions and high final product yields. Also, solvent loses can be made-up by producing GVL in the process.

Stage of development

The next development step is a 300 MT biomass/year pilot/R&D facility that validates the TriVersa ProcessTM with commercial engineered equipment. Engineering for this plant is in progress and the duration from project initiation to start-up is estimated to require 18 months with operation anticipated in mid-2017. Engineering development also shows that the pilot unit is sufficient in size and capability to inform the engineering for the first commercial plant. This plant is estimated to require an additional 24 months to construct.

Pilot plant feedstock will include hardwood wood chips and empty fruit bunches. The organic liquid phase catalysis technology will simultaneously convert the biomass into three product streams. Products will include high purity cellulose, glucose, furfural, and lignin that retains much of its native chemical structure. The location of the plant is pending, although sites in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Malaysia that are willing to host the demonstration.

More on the company.

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