Global Bioenergies: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

May 5, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoGlobal 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. 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, etc.) in existing industrial infrastructures. Relying on these infrastructures will facilitate the transition towards the use of these biosourced products.


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The Situation

This month, Global Bioenergies announced the delivery of the first batch of isobutene from renewable resources to Arkema six months ahead of the projected schedule.

Since its startup in November 2014, Global Bioenergies’ industrial pilot – installed on the Pomacle-Bazancourt agro-industrial site near Reims in France – has been operated almost continuously with the support of ARD, an affiliate of French sugar producer Cristal Union. The first tasks consisted in scaling up the fermentation results achieved in the laboratory, followed by the startup of the purification and packaging module to allow the production of purified isobutene batches.

In April 2015, Global Bioenergies announced that it has completed the financing of its demo plant, and is commencing construction immediately. The 5,000L demonstration-scale facility will be completed in spring 2015, and will be located at Leuna, near Leipzig in German, and will have a production capacity of up to 100 tons per year, enabling 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.

Top Past Milestones

In March 2015, the company announced the production of  “second generation” isobutene, in a push to diversify accessible feedstock towards cheaper resources. Global Bioenergies had been using first generation feedstock, such as wheat-derived glucose, to set-up and optimize its bio-isobutene process. However, the process was designed to be versatile in terms of feedstock. With the right technical adaptations, it would indeed be well suited to the usage of non-edible resources – widely defined as “second generation” – such as wheat straw, corn stover, sugar cane bagasse or even wood chips.

In February 2015, Global Bioenergies announced it has reached the first milestone of the BioMA+ project, which is financed by the French “Investissements d’Avenir” state program. The project aims at developing a renewable value chain to methacrylic acid, a key constituent of acrylic paints. Achieving this first milestone result unlocked a $1.93 million payment. Global Bioenergies had in this context started-up an industrial pilot in November on the agro-industrial site of Pomacle-Bazancourt. The company ARD, a subsidiary of the sugar refiner Cristal Union, is in charge of the pilot’s exploitation and now carries out on a weekly basis fermentation trials mimicking exploitation at full-scale.

In January 2014, Global Bioenergies announced it would 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.

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.

Major Milestone Goals

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:

(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.


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