Clariant, Anhui Guozhen Group, and Chemtex Chemical Engineering ink deal for 30 million gallon cellulosic ethanol project in China

January 6, 2020 |

From Germany we have news that Clariant, Anhui Guozhen Group, and Chemtex Chemical Engineering signed a license agreement on sunliquid cellulosic ethanol technology.

This is the third commercial license for the sunliquid technology and the first for China.

The Anhui Guozhen Group and Chemtex have agreed to form a joint venture with the aim of realizing a full-scale commercial plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues. In this framework, Clariant has granted a license for its sunliquid cellulosic ethanol technology to the joint venture.

Location and Scale

The project development and plant operation will be executed by the joint venture at a greenfield site in Fuyang city in the Anhui province, in the Yangtze-Huai River region in East China, utilizing available land, owned by the Anhui Guozhen Group, and existing infrastructure network in the surrounding area. The annual plant production capacity is planned to be 50.000 tons of cellulosic ethanol, with an option to double the capacity in a second phase (50.000 tons in each phase), making it one of the largest in China so far. Detailed project evaluations and preparations for the engineering phase are well underway. The project execution is pending a final agreement of certain government contracts for the project.

For the Anhui region this signifies a noteworthy investment in green, sustainable technologies. The area is very much characterized by agriculture, which guarantees the abundance of feedstock for the cellulosic ethanol plant. By locally sourced feedstock, in that case wheat straw and corn stover, greenhouse gas savings can be maximized and additional business opportunities along the entire value and supply chain will arise.

The produced cellulosic ethanol will be utilized in the Chinese regional fuels market as blend into gasoline to fulfill the national blending mandate. Cellulosic ethanol produced with sunliquid saves around 95% of greenhouse gases compared to gasoline.

The Clariant backstory

In September, we reported that ORLEN Południe would be cellulosic ethanol to Poland, via sunliquid technology.

Last January, we reported that ExxonMobil teamed with REG and Clariant to evaluate waste-based cellulosic sugar production.

Also last September, we undertook a visit to Craiova, Romania and the first commercial groundbreaking for Clariant technology. More on that here.

Last September, we looked into Clariant cellulosic technology in a visit to Straubing, Germany and the sunliquid integrated pilot plant.

Whoa, Nelly – Chemtex?

Industry observers will remember Chemtex as a major unit of M&G Chemicals, which pushed forward on a major cellulosic ethanol technology of its own and built a plant in Crescentino, Italy and also partnered with Gran Bio on a project in Brazil.  The company ran into trouble with a major non-renewables project in the U.S. market and tumbled into receivership, and that technology is today owned by Versalis.

Chemtex Global Corporation took over the technology and engineering business of Chemtex International, Inc. (a subsidiary of the M & G Chemicals), but does not have financial or legal relationships with CII and its other entities, M&G Chemicals and other M&G entities. Interesting all the same to note the JV using Clariant’s sunliquid technology.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“For Clariant, China represents a core growth market where we want to further strengthen our position. The country is aiming to achieve a 10% bioethanol content in transportation fuels nationwide in the next few years. These regulatory commitments offer substantial growth potential for our sunliquid technology by spurring demand for advanced biofuels.”, said Hans Bohnen, Clariant’s Chief Operating Officer. “Hence, the signing of a sunliquid technology license with two renowned Chinese players is an important strategic milestone to seize those promising business opportunities.”

“Guozhen intends to be a pioneer and invest in the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in China. We are looking forward to work with Clariant and Chemtex, two well experienced companies to contribute to China’s environmental and ecological advance.”, emphasized Li Wei, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Guozhen Group.

“As a global industrial solution provider in biofuels, chemicals, polymers, fibers and gas processing, Chemtex has extensive experience in partnering with reputed technology licensors particularly in the Chinese market. Through these partnerships Chemtex gained significant knowledge worldwide in first generation and cellulosic ethanol projects. In China, we have been active for more than 40 years and realized over 100 plants. This experience will make a major contribution to the collaboration between Anhui Guozhen, Clariant and Chemtex for the first Chinese commercial cellulosic ethanol project to succeed.”, adds Sean Ma, Chairman and CEO of Chemtex.

The Bottom Line

China has been home to a lot of R&D around cellulosic biofuels, but nothing this advanced in terms of technology maturity — and a 30 million gallon project (counting both phases) is of world-class scale. What’s happened? Two things, really. One, countries are waking up that there’s no meeting Paris Agreement emissions targets without tackling road transport, and now, and that means internal combustion engines, and cellulosic ethanol is the fastest route if the technology is a fit. Second, this technology has come a long ways, baby, as they used to say around the Virginia Slims tennis circuit.

The big question will be around the actual sources and methods of cellulosic waste collection. We’ll stand by to report more.

We don’t see this as the final chapter in a long story, but as the first chapter in a story with a long title page. More to come in China and India, those are the hot spots right now, though watch out Brazil.

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