DSM, Roquette to build commercial-scale succinic acid project in Italy

May 10, 2011 |

DSM chief Feike Sijbesma

“The so-called fossil-age will make a shift to the bio-based-economy. In two or three centuries from now, people will look back on our civilization as a merely brief moment in history where we in a period of just about 250 years shifted our total economy to coal, oil and gas. To make the shift back to living with, and especially off, nature, we need to start this shift now. We are at a turning point towards a next green industrial revolution to secure our feed and fuel needs in the future.”

With those words, Feike Sijbesma, CEO of DSM, accepted the the George Washington Carver award for innovation in biotechnology at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, as he announced that DSM and Roquette Frères will build a commercial scale plant for the production of bio-based succinic acid.

With a capacity of about 10 kilotons per year, the plant will be Europe’s largest bio-based succinic acid facility. It is expected to come on stream in H2 2012 and will be built on the premises of Roquette in Cassano Spinola (Italy). Financial details of the investment will not be disclosed.

Succinic acid is a chemical building block used in the manufacture of polymers, resins, food and pharmaceuticals among other products. Bio-based succinic acid, a renewable and versatile chemical building block, is an alternative to petroleum-derived chemical building blocks such as adipic acid and 1.4- butanediol. As a result of price competiveness and its renewable nature, bio-based succinic acid is addressing a larger market than fossil feedstock based succinic acid.

The commercial scale bio-based succinic acid plant is another important step in the successful cooperation between DSM and Roquette that started in 2008. Early 2010 DSM and Roquette opened a demonstration plant in Lestrem (France), which has been running at full capacity. In 2010 DSM and Roquette also announced their intention to establish a joint venture (which will be carrying out business under the name Reverdia) for their cooperation, subject to regulatory approval.

The new commercial production facility in Italy will be producing fermentation based bio-succinic acid. The proprietary yeast-based fermentation process, which operates at a much lower pH than competing processes, allows succinic acid to be produced with a significantly higher energy efficiency compared to the traditional method. It is also one of the first bio-based processes that sequesters carbon dioxide in the production process.
The new production facility will for the time being use starch derivatives as feedstock. In the longer term the aspiration is to switch to second generation feedstock (cellulosic biomass).

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