MetGen’s Acceleration: A hat-trick of deals put the lignin pioneer on a new trajectory

September 28, 2022 |

From MetGen in Finland comes not one story but three, a hat-trick. First, a commercial license for biorefineries with Futurity in New Zealand; second, a partnership with Ivy Farms to develop an industrial process for bioactive molecules they use in their cultivated meat technology; third, a partnership with Technip Energies for the industrialization of MetGen’s METNIN technology.

Technip Energies

METNIN is an enzymatic process technology that enables the fractionation of lignin from lignocellulosic feedstocks to produce various renewable bio-products. Technip Energies and MetGen have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly bring a standardized solution for lignin refining to the global market.

For those newer to lignin, it is the world’s most abundant biopolymer and the least used. It’s the substance that gives vertical strength, allowing plants and trees to stand up. It’s complexity makes it hard for microbes to attack it — so, what makes it useful to trees makes it difficult for industrialists — and today, generally speaking, lignin is a high-volume waste stream of biorefineries that is currently burned. Only Borregaard has a vanillin technology that effectively valorizes the lignin stream. That’s changing.

Bhaskar Patel, SVP Sustainable Fuels, Chemicals & Circularity of Technip Energies, commented:“METNIN technology is a game changer for the future operators of biorefineries.”

Over at Futurity

Now, let’s turn to the Futurity news. Through this agreement, Futurity can build and operate lignin-centric biorefineries using METNIN Technologies. The partnership will allow the development of a full range of high value lignin-based products including resins and adhesives, foams, composites, bio-based chemicals and polymers to meet the growing needs of a fast changing world.

Using the Valority process, Futurity’s New Zealand pine lignin can substitute up to 40% of the oil-derived chemicals within traditional foams, improving the performance of the end-product and reducing the cost and carbon emissions during foam production. Applications include  fire retardant coatings, insulation & products, UV resistant paints, cosmetics, coating & additives, resins & adhesives, anti fouling, plus waterproof coatings & additives. All of it recyclable, compostable and a cost-saving for customers.

Where does MetGen fit in? Using the Sunburst process from Sweetwater Energy, Futurity mechanically separates the wood using steam and pressure into lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose. The METNIN process from MetGen further separates the lignin using enzymes to produce multiple highly usable lignin streams. Then, Futurity’s core technology, Valority, kicks in.

What about those refineries? Futurity is in the process of establishing New Zealand’s first advanced commercial biorefinery in Tairāwhiti-Gisborne. This plant will be the first of a number of biorefineries to be constructed around New Zealand. 

Ivy Farms

Now, let’s look at the Ivy Farms deal. It’s a Joint Development Agreement to create and license a robust industrial production system for affordable bioactive molecules for cultivated meat

Ivy Farm licenses its technology from the University of Oxford and is aimed at becoming the UK’s leading producer of cultivated meat, with three streams of revenue around cultivated pork, beef and chicken. As the IF team explains, “Just like taking a cutting from a plant, we start by taking a sample of animal cells. But instead of a plant pot, we nurture our cells in a large tank called a bioreactor. Suspending them in a solution packed with nutrients to help them multiply into either muscle or fat. In just two to three weeks, under our careful watch, this small sample of cells multiplies to become several billion in number. Which is equal to one kilo of meat.

The Bottom Line

When Digest readers named MetGen’s Lignin biorefinery project in Turku, Finland the #4 Hottest Project in the world earlier this year, they clearly knew something special was up. Of the three agreements, the Futurity deal has the biggest near-term prospects, since it is a license for multiple biorefineries. We wouldn’t overlook the partnership with Technip, however, to optimize and industrialize the lignin process. That’s a sign that major players have concluded, based on reviewing MetGen’s technology, that lignin’s time has come.

The MetGen backstory

MetGen was founded in 2008 and is based in Kaarina, Finland. MetGen’s enzymes – METZYME – are industrial, highly-active, natural catalysts that accelerate chemical reactions and company uses advances in genetic engineering and microbiology to adapt enzymes to harsh industrial conditions and to handle a variety of lignocellulosic substrates. MetGen aims to be a widely recognized supplier of industrial enzymes, significantly contributing to the economics and sustainability of process industries such as biofuels and renewable chemicals. MetGen’s competitive advantage is in tailoring or adapting enzymes to meet customer’s specific needs.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Lignin has vast potential to outperform and reduce our dependency on oil, historically the value and usefulness of lignin has been difficult to unlock through a commercially viable process at scale. MetGen’s METNIN technology has overcome this barrier and will allow us to create high quality, low cost products that unlock the true value of the lignin.  This helps us to generate value from the entire tree including cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin which makes up around 25% of total mass” said Futurity’s Dr. Gaetano Dedual.

MetGen’s CEO Alex Michine said “Over the past years MetGen has accumulated extensive experience on applying enzymes in industrial bio refineries”. In this work, we have recognized how important it is to match the proper technologies throughout the value-chain. This is why we are excited about being the partner in Futurity project with our METNIN™ platform.  Every processing step and every fraction of the raw material counts when creating renewable –and affordable – chemicals and materials out of lignocellulosic biomass.”

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