1 Februar 2008

France: Boost for Fermentation Chemistry with biobased succinic acid and propanediol

In France, the development of Industrial Biotechnology is gathering momentum: In April 2006 already, the government launched the “BioHub program”, developed to encourage industrial biotechnology in the center of the country. Now, two new industrial developments are under way: the commercialization of biobased succinic acid and the production of 1,3-propanediol (PDO) from crude glycerin.

Succinic acid
Roquette, one of Europe’s largest producers of starch and starch derivatives, has joined forces with chemical maker DSM to commercialize biobased succinic acid. The partners plan to open a demonstration plant in Lestrem, France, by the end of 2009.

Succinic acid, currently produced from crude oil or natural gas, is used in such industrial markets as pharmaceuticals, food, and automotive. It is also an intermediate for the production of several high-performance polymers — an area in which DSM is involved. The current worldwide use of succinic acid is around 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes per year, and this is on the increase by around 10 per cent a year.

Biobased succinic acid will be produced from glucose and Carbon dioxide by a fermentation process that the two companies developed. They say it is the first such production method in which carbon dioxide is actively used. The demonstration plant will have the capacity to produce several hundred metric tons per year. If the trial is successful, the partners will transfer the technology to large-scale production within two years. The use of glucose as a raw material instead of production from maleic anhydride (petrochemical source) would halve the cost of starting material (the process to convert maleic anhydride to succinic acid is also more expensive in energy terms as well).

Meanwhile, Clermont-Ferrand-based Metabolic Explorer has been granted a U.S. patent covering a fermentation method for producing 1,3-propanediol (PDO) from crude glycerin. The company already has European patents on the process.

“This is the first U.S. patent specifically related to converting glycerin into PDO at high yield using a coenzyme B12-independent metabolic pathway,” says Philippe Soucaille, MetEx’s chief scientific officer. The firm says it has developed “cell factories” for five chemical intermediates that together have annual sales of some $11 billion.

Further information
Huw Kidwell: Bio-succinic acid to go commercial. In: in-Pharma Technologist, 2008-01-24.

(Cf. news of 2008-01-31, 2008-01-22 and 2007-09-11.)

Source: Chemical & Engineering News, and in-Pharma Technologist, 2008-01-24.

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