Greenyug to go commercial-scale in 2017, signs key ethyl acetate offtake deal with Helm

February 21, 2017 |

BD TS 022317 Greenyug cover sm

In California, HELM AG and Greenyug signed an off-take agreement for the purchase and sale of bio-based Ethyl Acetate produced at Greenyug’s planned Ethyl Acetate facility in Columbus, Nebraska. This agreement will make significant amounts of bio-based Ethyl Acetate available first time to the market. As we reported last June, Greenyug has formed a subsidiary, Prairie Catalytic, LLC, that will own and operate the production facility, and the Prairie Catalytic production facility will be located next to Archer Daniels Midland Company’s Corn Processing Plant in Columbus, Nebraska.

The partners have not confirmed scale of the facility, but Greenyug has avowedly been pursuing a 50 kiloton per year project. Think 15 million gallons per year if you’re relating this back to ethanol volumes.

What’s ethyl acetate, again?

Ethyl acetate, it’s that sweet-smelling ester found in nail polish and glue. There, think adhesives, paints, coatings, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, printing inks, packaging and industrial solvents. Not to mention decaffeinating tea or coffee.

Why is Greenyug’s process compelling?

It’s not rocket science for chemistry kings to find ways to make ethyl acetate from ethanol. What’s new is the simplicity of the process, low capex and low opex process. Specifically, $20 million CAPEX to generate a $19M profit from a 50 kiloton per year EA plant.

What’s the driver for ADM?

Well, getting a statement out of ADM is harder than hustling gold out of Fort Knox via the front door, but think of ADM’s interest in biodiesel for a second, Essentially, it’s a hedge against oversupply of soybean oil — in that case, there’s just no end to the demand for soybean meal — the US Seventh Fleet I think exists to ship the stuff to China — but soybean oil demand has always been more dicey and soy interests are always coming up with new applications to keep demand from getting imbalanced and tanking the price. Hence, biodiesel.

In the case of ethanol, the world could use a hedge. One never quite knows when the US market is going to get fully saturated for fuel ethanol — in the near-term, that is, until tough CAFE fuel efficiency standards wake up engine manufacturers to the value of high ethanol blends. So, ethyl acetate is a hedge — one of those neat applications that can offtake a hunk of ethanol production without demand getting imbalanced and tanking the price. Hence, ethyl acetate. And, you get double-the-ethanol-price in the meantime. As it happens, ethyl Acetate has a global market of more than $4 Billion. The market for Ethyl Acetate is growing faster than GDP because of its desirable properties. Greenyug Ethyl Acetate will be the first commercially available in industrial quantities to be entirely sourced from renewable feedstock.

Very nice.

So that’s our theory, but as we said, to work at ADM means submitting first to a devocalization procedure, so we’re left to make guesses.

All that lovely hydrogen

The world is short on peace, love, and hydrogen. And there’s a secret byproduct here, your friend the single-atom wonder gas.

Namely, Greenyug has a one-step conversion described as:

A reactive distillation process producing high purity ethyl acetate from ethanol comprises feeding a feed stream comprising ethanol to a reactive distillation column, contacting the ethanol with a catalyst, dehydrogenating ethanol over the catalyst in the liquid phase during the distillation process, removing ethyl acetate during the distillation process as a bottoms product, and removing hydrogen during the distillation process as a top product.

We can think of a dozen processes that could use a paid-for source of renewable H2, and so one kind of wonders if there will  be, sometime, another small commercial or demonstration-scale facility, adjacent to the ADM Columbus plant, to use all those tasty renewable hydrogen atoms.

All that lovely math

Says here that it costs $80M to build a 55-kiloton ethyl acetate plant that uses conventional fossil feedstocks, and $14M to operate it, But it only costs $20M to build a plant using Greenyug technology and $10M to operate it. If you’re wondering why companies like EHLM and ADM are jumping onto the new technology bandwagon with this technology instead of, say, making renewable jet fuel from excess ethanol production — well, there’s the green in your green economy.

Where in the world is Columbus?

So, the world is being re-invented, and this time not anywhere near the streets of San Francisco. Just follow the Platte River west from Omaha, and 60 miles or so down the road you’ll find it along US Route 30, just before you reach town. It’s the old Lincoln Highway, more or less, the historic road that made it possible to travel coast-to-coast in comfort, by car.

The project details

The ADM facility in Columbus will supply the project with bioethanol feedstock and other services. Construction of the facility is anticipated to start during 2017 with production set to begin about a year later. HELM will take over exclusive responsibility for the worldwide sales and marketing of Ethyl Acetate from the Prairie Catalytic facility.

The Greenyug backstory

Greenyug developed its patented technology at its Santa Barbara, California Research Facility and continued the scale-up at its fully integrated demonstration plant in India. Greenyug has developed a proprietary platform to add value to bioethanol by upgrading it into a variety of bio-based chemicals with broad market appeal. Greenyug Ethyl Acetate, the first of such products, is a widely marketed specialty solvent used extensively in products such as paints, coatings, pharmaceuticals, adhesives and a variety of consumer goods.

Reaction from the principals

Axel Viering, Executive Director of the Derivatives business unit at HELM, highlighted the relevance of the marketing contract with Prairie Catalytic and its parent Greenyug: “By entering into this marketing agreement we are further strengthening our global presence and expanding our existing competence in ethyl acetate distribution. As a major global distributor of chemicals, HELM looks forward to a long-term relationship with Greenyug and Prairie Catalytic.”

“The collaboration with HELM clearly fulfills our project needs of a major marketer, and we are impressed with HELM’s secure network in relevant markets worldwide. This off-take agreement provides us immediate access to Ethyl Acetate customers enabling Prairie Catalytic to generate revenue once the plant is operational,” stated Sagar Gadewar, Greenyug and Prairie Catalytic, CEO.

Bottom line: ADM joins a new green era?

It’s a wild guess that the name Greenyug is a neologism coined from the Hindu religious idea of the cycles of time, the Four Yugas (by the way, if you’re currently disappointed with global culture, you might be unsurprised to learn that the Earth is mired in the Kali Yuga at the moment, the age of vice). So, Green+yuga — and you have something like Green Age or Green Era.

But, why not take a more purist approach? The ancient root word is jungo, and it means “to join”. So, for the purist, it’s a case of Green+jungo — and you have something like Joining the Green Bandwagon.

That’s not a bad way at all to think of what the technology does — rejoins a busted corn molecule into an ethyl acetate, and not a bad way to think about ADM in all this. They’re taken scaled-up but tech-proven steps into renewables. After all, ethanol fermentation isn’t exactly new science. But Greenyug technology is a big, big leap to the front of the technical pack, and it’s good news to see ADM running at the front of the pack.


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