BioAmber: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

March 3, 2014 |

Company description

From the company’s 2013 S-1: “Our proprietary technology platform combines industrial biotechnology, an innovative purification process and chemical catalysis to convert renewable feedstocks into chemicals that are cost-competitive replacements for petroleum-derived chemicals. The development of our current organism was originally funded by the DOE in the late 1990s, was further developed and scaled up, and optimized at the large-scale manufacturing facility in France.

“We manufacture our bio-succinic acid in a facility using a commercial scale 350,000 liter fermenter in Pomacle, France…We have produced 487,000 pounds, or 221 metric tons, of bio-succinic acid at this facility…We believe we can produce bio-succinic acid that is cost-competitive with succinic acid produced from oil priced as low as $35 per barrel, based on management’s estimates of production costs at our planned facility in Sarnia, Ontario and an assumed corn price of $6.50 per bushel.

“We have secured funding to construct the initial phase of our next global-scale facility in Sarnia, Ontario and we intend to build and operate two additional facilities, one located in Thailand and the other located in either the United States or Brazil.

Rankings

30 Hottest Companies in Biobased Chemicals & Materials: #13, 2013-14

The Situation

In May 2013, we wrote:

Revenue-producing. In general terms, BioAmber came later to the market than some of its peers — although still a development-stage company that lost $39 million in 2012 and $30M in 2011, the company has been ramping up revenue and recorded $2.2 million in product sales for 2012, with a 24% margin. In all there were 227 tons of biosuccinic acid sold to 19 different customers — and BioAmber is the first to achieve biosuccinic sales on this scale.

Reduced scale-up risk. Though the IPO proceeds will, in part, be dedicated to the first commercial plant, BioAmber has been running at its demo plant for three years now in Pomacle, France at the 350,000 liter scale — far more progress towards scale-up than some of its peers.

Improvements in the first commercial design to increase margin. As BioAmber related in the S-1A, “We have incorporated numerous lessons learned and improvements gained from operating the facility in France into our engineering design for our planned manufacturing facility in Sarnia, Ontario. We expect to produce bio-succinic acid [without subsidy] cost-competitive with succinic acid produced from oil priced as low as $35 per barrel.”

Lower feedstock risk exposure. As BioAmber detailed in its last revised S-1A registration statement, “Our process requires less sugar than most other renewable products because 25% of the carbon in our bio-succinic acid originates from carbon dioxide as opposed to sugar. This makes our process less vulnerable to sugar price increases relative to other bio-based processes.”

Less policy risk. An advantage that the pure-play renewable chemical companies have over their fuel-only or “fuels and chems” peers? There was never any expectation of market subsidies or mandated usage — and the pure-plays have inherently less policy risk — a risk realm that has proven highly toxic to both public investors and project finance suppliers.

Top Milestones for 2010‐13

1. In May 2013, BioAmber announced the pricing of its initial public offering of 8 million units consisting of one share of common stock and one warrant to purchase half of one share of common stock at $10 per unit, before underwriting discounts and commissions.

2. In September 2012, Inolex launched a new range of 100% natural and sustainable emollients, using bio-based succinic acid from BioAmber. The market for personal care esters is valued at over $500 million. The new succinate emollients are highly-versatile because of their sensory properties and outstanding ability to disperse pigments. These fluids can be used in skin care, hair care, color and antiperspirant products to provide shine and a light fast-drying emolliency. These emollients are suitable as alternatives to silicone fluids for improving skin-feel, as well as enhancing shine and texture in hair care products. In natural formulations, they can be used to reduce the greasiness of natural oils.

3. In February 2012, NatureWorks and BioAmber, announced the creation of their AmberWorks joint venture to bring new performance bio-based polymer compositions to market. NatureWorks brings to the joint venture a global commercial presence, established customer relationships, developed applications across a breadth of industries and deep experience in commercializing new-to-the-world polymers. BioAmber owns PLA/PBS compounding intellectual property and applies award-winning biotechnology and chemical processing to produce renewable chemicals.

4. In February 2012, BioAmber raised $30 million in its Series C round of financing with $20 million invested in November by Naxos Capital, Sofinnova Partners, Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and the Cliffton Group, and a second tranche of $10 million on February 6th, 2012 closed with specialty chemicals company LANXESS. BioAmber and LANXESS are jointly developing phthalate-free plasticizers and expect to begin sampling succinic-based plasticizers in 2012.

Major Milestone Goals for 2014-16

1. Moving beyond succinic. The market for succinic acid itself is relatively small. The key to BioAmber (and other developers, like Myriant) is finding a market for biosuccinic as a “drop-in” replacement for other, incumbent petroleum-based chemicals, addressing what BioAmber termed “a more than $30 billion market opportunity.” That claim is yet to be proved — and the hard yards of commercialization lay ahead for the company to develop novel markets at scale.

“We intend to convert bio-succinic acid to bio-BDO and THF, which are large volume chemical intermediates that are used to produce polyesters, plastics, spandex and other products.

“We intend to use our bio-succinic acid in the production of PBS, which enables this polymer family to be partially renewable, and modified PBS, or mPBS, which provides these products with higher heat distortion temperature and improved strength.

2. New commercial plant. “We have begun early works on the site in Sarnia including hooking up to the water and sewer system under Vidal Street,” says the company’s Executive Vice-President Mike Hartmann. “The $80 million project is being constructed at the LANXESS Bio-Industrial Park in Sarnia.

The site is located in a large petrochemical hub with existing infrastructure that facilitates access to utilities and certain raw materials and finished product shipment, including steam, electricity, hydrogen, water treatment and carbon dioxide,” the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance newsletter reported. The plant is expected to open in 2014.

Business Model:

“For future facilities, the company writes, “we expect to enter into agreements with partners on terms similar to those in our agreement with Mitsui and we intend to partially finance these facilities with debt. We expect to use available cash and the proceeds of this offering to fund our initial facilities, as well as our commercial expansion and product development efforts. For additional future facilities, we currently expect to fund the construction of these facilities using internal cash flow and project financing.”

Competitive Edge:

1. Cost-competitive, renewable chemical alternatives that offer equal or better performance.

2.. Using less feedstock per ton of output than most other sugar-based processes for biochemicals other than succinic acid.

3. Significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than the processes used to manufacture petroleum-based products by sequestering carbon dioxide in the process of producing bio-succinic acid.

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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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