13 September 2011

Genomatica take first step to commercial renewable butadiene production

Supply of pound quantities already started

Genomatica have announced they have started production of pound quantities of butadiene made from renewable feedstocks. Butadiene is one of the seven basic chemicals at the heart of the chemical industry and it is an important ingredient in a number of products, such as tires and latex. It is commonly made from fossil fuels but Genomatica has engineered E. coli bacteria and other microorganisms, so they can make these same chemicals from the sugars stored in plants like maize.

“This new technology and process design offers a renewable option for the dedicated on-purpose production of this important supply-constrained chemical with what we expect should be significantly reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum-based processes,” said Genomatica in a statement.

Genomatica’s accomplishment comes at a time of increasing scarcity and rising costs of major C3 and C4 chemical products worldwide. Butadiene is known as a “C3″ chemical because it contains three carbon atoms in each molecule. Genomatica’s accomplishment comes at a time of increasing scarcity and rising costs of major C3 and C4 chemical products worldwide. This has been attributed to the increased availability of natural gas, especially in North America, which has flooded the market with lighter feedstocks. These feedstocks produce significantly less C3 and C4 chemicals.

Decreasing supplies and the lack of current options for butadiene production have resulted in a significant increase in the price of butadiene, which affects consumers downstream with rising prices of butadiene-based products. Global demand for butadiene in 2011 is forecasted to be over 20 billion pounds, or approximately $40 billion based on June 2011 prices.

This is the second major announcement from Genomatica in as many weeks. They have already announced plans to commercialise butanediol (BDO) – a C4 chemical – used to make a wide range of products, including spandex and even running shoes. “We are currently producing BDO at demonstration scale. We expect the first commercial-scale BDO plant using Genomatica’s process to begin production by the end of 2012, with one of our partners, Novamont,” said the company.

This comes at a time when the company is trying to raise $100 million through a public share offering. Genomatica, based in San Diego will be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market and the proceeds would be re-invested in research and development, capital projects and other purposes.

Source: NNFCC, 2011-09-13.

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