Global Bioenergies: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

March 6, 2014 |

Company description: 

Global Bioenergies is developing a direct process to convert renewable resources into hydrocarbons through fermentation. Since inception, the company focused its efforts on the production of isobutene, one of the most important petrochemical building blocks that can be converted into fuels, plastics, organic glass and elastomers.

Global Bioenergies continues to improve the yield of this process and prepares the phase dedicated to industrial pilot testing. The company recently replicated this success to propylene and butadiene and is also looking to continue with other members of the gaseous olefins family, key molecules at the heart of petrochemical industry.

Using the company’s innovative approach to produce gaseous olefins identical to those currently produced massively from fossil oil ensures the sustainability of industries that rely on these products: indeed, fuels derived from isobutene are fully miscible with fossil fuels. Existing storage and distribution infrastructures will continue to be used and thus allow a transition towards renewable fuels that will not require additional investments or adaptive efforts from end users.

These gaseous olefins will also allow the production of materials (plastics, rubbers, Plexiglas®…) in existing industrial infrastructures. Relying on these infrastructures will facilitate the transition towards the use of these biosourced products.

Rankings

30 Hottest Companies in Biobased Chemicals and Materials: #27, 2013/14

The Situation

Global Bioenergies announced in January that it will build a second industrial pilot on the site of the Leuna refinery, close to Leipzig in Germany. This new pilot plant, to be supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research through a $7 million grant, will include a 3 year study at the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes. The grant is part of the German government’s overall support of the Fraunhofer CBP, inaugurated in October 2012 by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the BioEconomy Cluster.

Global Bioenergies is a pioneer in the development of one-step fermentation processes for the direct and cost-efficient transformation of renewable resources into light olefin hydrocarbons, the key building blocks of the petrochemical industry.

This second facility represents a 10X jump in scale from the company’s first project, and will allow for a much purer isobutene product to be collected — required for certain downstream applications such as butyl rubber polymerization.

The pilot plant in Leuna will combine two 5,000 liter fermenters and a complete purification system, mimicking all aspects of a commercial scale plant. Designed for a production capacity of up to 100 tons per year, the isobutene produced in Leuna can be used for the fabrication of plastics, elastomers and fuels. Such scale will enable the delivery of samples to industrialists. This second pilot is the final step in Global Bioenergies’ development program before the full scale exploitation of the isobutene process.

In June 2013, Global Bioenergies had announced the launch of its first industrial pilot in the heart of the Bazancourt-Pomacle biorefinery, close to Reims. This first pilot, to be run through a collaboration with Arkema and the CNRS, is supported by a EUR 5.2 million state financing through the French “Investissements d’Avenir” program. This first industrial pilot will set the bases for large scale exploitation of the isobutene process in its application to methacrylics.

“After conducting a systematic assessment of available pilot facilities in North America and Europe, we have concluded that the Fraunhofer CBP platform in Leuna offers the unique combination of fermentation capabilities and olefin-oriented chemical engineering. Articulating our process with the recognized German knowledge in chemical engineering will be a key success factor”, commented Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies SA.

Gerd Unkelbach, Head of the Fraunhofer CBP, added: “Historically focused on petro-chemistry, the area around Leuna will benefit from new processes based on renewable resources, such as the one from Global Bioenergies. Twe can now focus on building a European success story and taking part in the global transition from fossil to renewable resources”, added Thomas Buhl, Managing Director of Global Bioenergies GmbH.

3 Top Milestones for 2010-13

1) Partnerships announced with Audi, on isobutene, and Synthos, on butadiene.

2) Capital campaign fully subscribed that raised $30 million. This transaction earned Global Bioenergies the EnterNext Prize for the most successful financial operation of the year at the French Stock market conference.

3) Pilot plant/scale-up efforts announced at facilities in both France and Germany. These facilities have attracted industry leaders in the chemicals and engineering space, such as Arkema and Linde, to be part of the process.

3 Major Milestone Goals for 2014-16

1) Complete pilot-scale testing of isobutene production and secure additional partnerships.

2) Produce methacrylic acid and isooctane samples to provide to customers for testing.

3) Butadiene production shifts from R&D to the piloting phase.

Business Model: The size of the addressed markets corresponds to a significant number of factories, hence huge CAPEX  out-licensing based business model.

Competitive Edge(s): 1) The product line is identical to molecules currently obtained from fossil sources, enabling identical fuel and chemical production and no infrastructure changes.  2) Global Bioenergies’ process uses Direct Fermentation to gaseous fermentation products  no distillation and little purification are required.  This has the potential to significantly reduce cost, energy usage, and to improve environmental benefits.

Website

Product or Service Brand Name:

Isobutene

Product or Service Description: 

Isobutene is a four carbon, gaseous molecule that is currently derived from the C4 cut of steam cracking fossil oil.  Isobutene can be converted into isooctane for fuels, butyl rubber for tires, organic glass, or PET for plastics.

Unique Features and Benefits

Making renewable isobutene allows us to access a host of products that are identical to the contemporary fossil-based products, except that our products will be renewable.  Furthermore, since we are producing isobutene using direct fermentation, the process has the capability of being more cost and energy efficient, and more environmentally friendly than other processes that yield liquid, water-soluble precursors of those molecules.

Product or Service Brand Name:

Butadiene

Product or Service Description: 

Butadiene is another four carbon gaseous molecule currently derived from steam cracking fossil oil.  Butadiene is used to make synthetic rubbers or elastomers for tires and hoses, and is also used to make plastics.

Unique Features and Benefits

Making renewable isobutene allows us to access a host of products that are identical to the contemporary fossil-based products, except that our products will be renewable.  Furthermore, since we are producing isobutene using direct fermentation, the process has the capability of being more cost and energy efficient, and more environmentally friendly than other processes that yield liquid, water-soluble precursors of those molecules.

Project Location:

Pomacle-Bazancourt, France

Materials or products produced: 

Oxidation-grade Isobutene

Capacity

3,000 gallons per year (equivalent).

Year, month in service  

2H 2014

Status:

Under construction

Feedstock:

Sugar

Processing technology 

Advanced fermentation

Project Location:

Leuna, Germany

Materials or products produced: 

Polymer-grade Isobutene

Isooctane

Capacity 

30,000 gallons per year (equivalent)

Year, month in service 

2H 2015

Status:

Planned

Feedstock(s):

Sugar

Processing technology 

Advanced fermentation

Chemical processing

 

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