22 Oktober 2018

An interview with Marcel Lubben, Reverdia. “The bioeconomy is a long-term commitment”

In this exclusive interview Marcel Lubben talks about Reverdia and his expectations related to the new EU bioeconomy strategy

“We expect full support for the bioeconomy in close connection with the circular economy. Together they can tackle two very pressing societal issues i.e. climate change (through lowering carbon footprint) and the plastic waste problem (through collection, reuse and recycling)”. Marcel Lubben, President of Reverdia, the JV between Royal DSM and Roquette which is producing bio-based succinic acid, talks to Il Bioeconomista. In this exclusive interview he talks about Reverdia and his expectations related to the new EU bioeconomy strategy that will be presented next October 22 in Brussels.

Interview by Mario Bonaccorso

What is the state of the art of your plant for the production of bio-based succinic acid in Piedmont, Italy?

Reverdia operates a 10 kt commercial plant in Cassano Spinola, Italy, since 2012. Our plant in Cassano features a fully integrated biorefinery and specialised workforce. Thanks to our world-class yeast technology, our production process is simple and extremely energy-efficient. Through it, we generate less waste and impurities than bacteria-based alternatives.

With DSM and Roquette, leaders in fermentation and biomass processing, we can produce a best-in-class succinic acid. Our plant is based on their knowledge of large-scale fermentation and purification experience.

What kind of raw material do you use?

The biorefinery in which our plant is integrated processes European industrial corn into starch but also into some high-value products such as proteins and oils. Biosuccinium® uses a small fraction of the starch coming from that biorefinery. Thanks to privileged access to our parent company Roquette’s renewable raw materials, our Biosuccinium® is based on high-quality feedstock. Our patented technology is also flexible on feedstock. For example, sucrose or cellulosic sugars can be an alternative in the future.

Reverdia is the result of a joint venture between two big companies, DSM and Roquette. How important is collaboration to develop the bioeconomy?

It is necessary to work together as we are typically replacing complete value chains instead of merely introducing new products. In most occasions, biomass suppliers, bio-based chemical producers, polymer producers, and even compounders and brand owners need to collaborate to introduce bio-based products.

Building a bioeconomy delivering on performance and competitiveness is a significant challenge, it requires a range of expertise to come together. In our case, DSM and Roquette have combined their expertise in biotechnology, feedstock processing and large-scale production. These combined skills formed the basis for our success.

The bioeconomy is a long-term commitment. Some investors can be impatient, but Roquette and DSM have been ideal investors. Like Reverdia, they are in there for the long run. It is a pleasure to collaborate with companies that are committed to this industry and are ready to do what it takes to bring biomaterials to the front of our economy.

Your Biosuccinum® is 99% bio-based certified according to the US Biopreferred program. How important is a program like the Biopreferred to promote the marketing of bioproducts?

We think it is very important to have certifications in place that are clear to market players and consumers. We can see that consumers ask more and more questions about how their products are made, what they are made of and how to dispose of them, etc. This type of trusted certifications will make consumers’ lives easier. We hope that more trust will lead to more demand in the future. We truly support and appreciate the US Biopreferred program. Having said that, we feel that the best time for the program is yet to come.

By the end of October the European Union will present the new bioeconomy strategy. What are your expectations?

We expect full support for the bioeconomy in close connection with the circular economy. Together they can tackle two very pressing societal issues i.e. climate change (through lowering carbon footprint) and the plastic waste problem (through collection, reuse and recycling).

We were already very happy to see the Plastics Strategy being put into place to take action on plastic waste. Littering should never be an option when it comes to plastics. But let’s not forget that plastics have an important role to play in our economy’s decarbonisation. For example, plastics can extend food’s shelf life and make vehicles lighter. We hope that the new bioeconomy strategy will address this important side of plastics and its role into the bio-based economy.

What are your next steps in the bioeconomy?

Grow, grow, grow. We have established our manufacturing capability and developed our technology to meet targets of economic production. Now we need to further boost our commercial pipeline.

We are positive, we believe that consumers’ mindsets are changing and that this will translate into demand for the biomaterials industries in the years to come. Today at Reverdia, we are looking at concrete examples where bio-based offerings meet the circular economy.

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Source: Il Bioeconomista, 2018-10-08.

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