18 September 2008

Renewable alternative to petroleum-derived isoprene

BioIsoprene could make the rubber industry less dependent on oil-derived products

Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. today announced a research collaboration to develop a breakthrough bio-based process for producing isoprene using renewable raw materials. Goodyear and Genencor are developing BioIsopreneTM a revolutionary bio-based alternative for the petroleum-derived chemical compound isoprene. BioIsopreneTM can be used for the production of synthetic rubber – which in turn is an alternative to natural rubber – and other elastomers. The development of BioIsopreneTM could make the tyre and rubber industry less dependent on oil-derived products, such as synthetic rubber made from petroleum-derived isoprene monomer.

Danisco bases its investment on conservative estimates, placing the annual world market potential for high purity isoprene at a value of USD 1-2 billion. BioIsopreneTM will address this market as a renewable and cost-competitive alternative to petroleum-derived isoprene which is currently used in the production of synthetic rubber for tyre applications, adhesives, elastomers and other styrene applications.

Genencor plans to manufacture and supply Goodyear with BioIsopreneTM through a strategic supply arrangement. Goodyear is one of the world’s largest users of isoprene for the production of synthetic rubber and other elastomers. Sales of BioIsopreneTM by Genencor to third parties are also anticipated for all market applications of high purity isoprene.

Danisco and Goodyear have been investing jointly for more than a year to validate the project, establish the teams and secure intellectual property assets. To date, our technical progress has exceeded expectations. Over the next three years, Danisco will invest approximately USD 50 million to continue technology development, scale-up and deliver manufacturing cost targets. Additional investments to establish pilot plant operations and manufacturing infrastructure are expected. We expect technical readiness by 2010 and commission of the first large-scale manufacturing plant by 2012. Key technical and commercial accomplishments will be communicated as the effort progresses.

For Goodyear, a bio-based alternative to synthetic rubber would be an important advancement as the company seeks innovative approaches to addressing raw material needs. The company is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, and BioIsoprene™ produced from renewable materials will help achieve this goal.

“We truly see this as a unique opportunity that is consistent with our culture of innovation and industry leadership,” says Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear’s Chief Technology Officer. “Since synthetic rubber is a critical component to our products, we are very excited to be working on this renewable alternative with Genencor.”

For Danisco and its Genencor division, BioIsoprene™ is part of its strategic focus to build bio-based systems for biochemical and biofuel production. The Genencor division is critical to unlocking this potential, because it has a long track record as a pioneer in industrial biotechnology and continues to deliver breakthrough bio-based solutions across industries. An example is the joint initiative with DuPont that led to the development of an advanced bioprocess to produce 1.3 propanediol, now sold as Sorona™ produced by DuPont and Tate & Lyle. The project earned the US Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2003.

“Danisco sees this announcement as a major leap towards a bio-based future driven by renewable resources,” adds Tom Knutzen, CEO of Danisco. “Our Genencor division is one of the leading forces in industrial biotechnology and, once again, proves that with this project. Today’s announcement joins our recent joint venture with DuPont on cellulosic ethanol as another important milestone in changing the strategic profile of our company by capturing a bigger part of the value chain in these exciting markets.”

Source: Genencor

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