Cobalt, Rhodia tie-up for renewable chemicals from sugarcane bagasse

October 19, 2011 |

In California and Brazil, Cobalt Technologies and Rhodia, a specialty chemical company, announced an MOU to develop bio n-butanol refineries throughout Latin America.

It’s one of the first moves into the conversion of sugar cane bagasse into renewable fuels and chemicals. There are 2.3 billion tones of sugarcane grown annually, and around 714 million tonnes of available bagasse, enough to produce as much as 70 billion gallons of fuels and chemicals. To date, bagasse has generally been burned to provide power for sugarcane mills.

Under the terms of the alliance, Cobalt and Rhodia will work together to deploy Cobalt’s technology for the conversion of sugar cane bagasse into n-butanol for the chemicals and fuels market.  The parties will initially develop options for deploying Cobalt’s technology at a sugar mill. Following this first step, the partners will jointly develop a demonstration plant to demonstrate Cobalt’s technology on site in Brazil.  Following the demonstration plant the parties intend to construct multiple bio-refineries co-located with sugar mills, first in Brazil and then in other Latin American countries.

“This relationship establishes a clear path to commercialization for our technology,” said Rick Wilson, Ph.D., and CEO of Cobalt Technologies.  “Rhodia has a long history of successful operations in Brazil and have significant experience in sugar mill operations through their ownership of a bagasse-based power plant co-located with a sugar mill.”

“Bio n-butanol based on bagasse will enlarge our Augeo range of biosourced solvents and perfectly fits with Rhodia’s sustainable development strategy. We are convinced that Cobalt’s bagasse-based leading-edge technology will provide an unmatched cost advantage over the long term,” said Vincent Kamel, president of Rhodia Coatis Business Unit. “There is undoubtedly a huge potential for bio n-butanol in Latin America and beyond and we are looking forward to building a large international business with Cobalt.”

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