Anellotech’s Bio-TCat technology viability confirmed during pilot plant campaign – moving forward with commercialization

May 5, 2019 |

We hear the theme song to Disney’s Carousel of Progress… “It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow…” but it’s also a great big beautiful today because the viability of Anellotech’s Bio-TCat technology has been proven by achieving commercially-targeted yields in its TCat-8 pilot unit in Silsbee, Texas during six months of continuous process operations.

Anellotech’s website says “A practical & commercially viable pathway to bio-derived plastics.” Their video says “For Anellotech, the future is now.” They certainly are making the future happen now. It may have taken years but dreams have turned into reality and now are moving to the marketplace.

Going from demo to pilot to commercial can take a lot of patience, a lot of money and a lot of time, so when it happens, it’s pretty darn exciting. We’ve seen many projects fail after demo or pilot scale, so to see a win of this nature, is thrilling. They told The Digest last year that they’d reach commercial scale applications in 2019 and they kept their promise.

What’s even more thrilling is the process yields. Yes, we are excited about process yields. Why? Because Anellotech’s is out of the park! They demonstrated process yields of 22-24% by weight of liquid products from loblolly pine feedstock.

Even more exciting, “Supplemental carbon monoxide (CO) output provides potential for an additional 3-5% yield by weight of cellulosic ethanol via third-party technologies or production of renewable electricity,” according to their press release.

The product

The Bio-TCat reactor produces a liquid product containing over 98% C6+ aromatic chemicals directly from the MinFree-pretreated feedstock. After mild hydro-treating and purification, AnelloMate products – the family of liquid products made through Bio-TCat – meet all specifications for sale as chemicals or fuel blendstocks.

While Anellotech was founded in 2008 and has raised over $80 million in cash and in-kind contributions to date (much of it mysterious and anonymous), their patented Bio-TCat technology is an efficient thermal catalytic process for converting biomass into BTX aromatics (a mixture of benzene, toluene and xylene) which are chemically identical to petroleum-based counterparts. High-purity BTX is used to make commodity polymers such as polyester (polyethylene terephthalate or “PET”), polystyrenes, polycarbonates, nylons and polyurethanes which are used to manufacture a variety of plastic consumer goods such as beverage bottles, food packaging, clothing, footwear, carpeting, automotive and electronic components.

Bio-TCat technology can also produce renewable AnelloMate fuel blendstocks which can be used to lower the GHG emissions of producing gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and low-sulfur marine fuels.

Anellotech told The Digest last year that they will license its Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis process to industrial users around the world.

Read more about Anellotech in The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide ABLC Guide to Anellotech.

The next step

Anellotech is now planning the construction of its first commercial plant and is engaging in partnership and funding discussions with existing and new strategic partners. Engineering work is expected to begin this summer and once funding is secured, the next phase of construction will begin in the second half of 2020.

The first plant will be capable of processing 500 bone dry tons/day of loblolly pine wood into 40,000 tonnes/year (860 BPSD) of products including benzene, toluene, xylenes, and C9+ aromatics to use as fuels or for making bio-based plastics for packaging and consumer products. 30,000 tons of carbon monoxide (CO) and other by-product gases will also be produced, for use in generating renewable electricity or used for chemical feedstock.

Anellotech and its partner Axens are looking forward to licensing much larger plants following this first commercialization. These would be five-times bigger, producing 200-250,000 tons/year (4,000-5,000 BPSD) of aromatics and 150,000 tonnes of CO. This rapidly expands the availability of bio-aromatics for chemicals and fuels, providing cost-competitive solutions needed by refiners and brand owners looking to make a difference in their carbon footprints.

This is a big step forward for Anellotech. Licensing plants with Axens is a smart move for Anellotech since Axens is a major international process licensing and engineering firm that focuses on novel technologies for renewable biomass conversion. It makes sense to have Axen cover the entire engineering value chain for Anellotech’s Bio-TCat technology. That includes design and licensing packages, feasibility studies, unit start-up, and technical service.

What they say

“We are delighted with these results, as they validate the economic potential of the Bio-TCat process and give us confidence that even small, initial scales of production are viable”, said David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech. “The goal of being cost-competitive with fossil resource technologies is a reality and we look forward to on-going process improvements.

“We are very excited about the prospects of deploying the Bio-TCat technology commercially under license in the coming years. We expect to bring non-food, renewable solutions to the fuels and chemicals markets for products that meet sustainability goals and provide attractive returns under competitive market conditions,” affirmed Pierre Beccat, Executive Vice-President Technology Development and Innovation at Axens.

What about bioplastic?

Anellotech’s technology goes beyond fuels. Think plastic bottles without petrochemicals. Nylon clothing made from biomass, not fossil fuels. Toys, mobile phones, laundry detergent all made from non-food renewable sources. Imagine…now watch it become reality thanks to Anellotech.

As reported in The Digest in February, Anellotech and its joint development partners IFPEN and Axens have processed renewably-sourced aromatics made at Anellotech’s TCat-8 pilot plant to successfully recover high-purity bio-based paraxylene – a key component for making 100% bio-based PET bottles a reality.

This is a key development milestone for Anellotech and global consumer beverage company Suntory, as the two partners will collaborate to produce the bottles. Anellotech, IFPEN and Axens will now purify additional paraxylene to create pilot sample 100% bioPET beverage bottles – as well as sample quantities of bio-based benzene whose derivatives (nylon, ABS, polycarbonate, linear alkyl benzene) are used in clothing, toys, mobile phones and laundry detergent.

Anellotech will begin to make renewable PET resin for prototype bottle manufacture and product trials. This will be the industry’s first major production of bio-PET from continuous, cost-effective processing of non-food biomass.

Bottom Line

Our predictions were right on…back in March 2018, The Digest predicted “It’s easier to get a four-star general to divulge the nuclear launch codes than to get Anellotech to make predictions about the future — but these are encouraging signs that renewable BTX at scale may only be 3-4 years away. The company limits itself to “one year plus” as a time frame for the studies at this stage of development — after that, time to build a commercial plant, which could be completed within say 18-24 months.”

Anellotech is one of those companies that you look at and say “you got the right stuff, baby…” Their patented technology is taking non-food biomass and turning it into valuable chemicals and fuel blendstocks. The dream of a non-food based bioplastic bottle is so close you can almost taste it. Anellotech’s successful pilot now moving to commercialization is the next phase in a most beautiful future. Not just for Anellotech and their investors but for all of us in the bioeconomy.

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