Renewable chemical and fuel giants Amyris and tyre makers Michelin have signed an agreement to work together in developing and commercialising bio-isoprene, the chemical building block used in rubber tyres. Under the agreement, Amyris and Michelin will share financial and technical resources to develop Amyris’s technology to produce isoprene from renewable feedstocks.
Isoprene can be used to make rubber tyres as well as other specialty chemical applications, such as adhesives, coatings and sealants. Amyris expects to start producing isoprene on a commercial scale from 2015 and Michelin are committed to off-take volumes on a ten-year basis. In addition, Amyris retains the right to market its renewable isoprene to other customers.
“This partnership will allow both companies to continue Michelin’s tradition of innovation in the tyre industry and expand Amyris’s industrial biotechnology platform for new products,” said John Melo, CEO of Amyris.
“Growing demand for isoprene and a desire to increase the sourcing of sustainable raw materials create a great opportunity for Amyris to bring to market renewable solutions with No Compromise® performance that also reduce price volatility,” added Melo.
Amyris currently use their technology to convert plant-based sugars into a 15-carbon molecule chemical called farnesene, but this approach can also make isoprene, a 5-carbon molecule and main ingredient in the production of synthetic rubber.
Isoprene is traditionally made as a by-product of the thermal cracking of fossil-based naphtha or via 4-carbon molecule refinery stream synthesis. As the petrochemical industry adjusts to lighter cracking slates with the advent of shale gas, new sources of isoprene have become necessary, said Amyris.
Michelin are not the only tyre manufacturer working on bio-based isoprene, Goodyear have a long standing joint venture with industrial biotechnology experts Genencor to commercialise their own bio-based isoprene by 2015.
Source: National Center for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC), 2011-10-07.