Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Leapfrogging High Value Chemicals to Reach Advanced Biofuels

More advanced biofuels companies are resorting to short-term production of high value chemicals to help finance their long-term advanced biofuels R&D and scale-up operations.

Genomatica is partnering with Tate & Lyle to build a demonstration scale productin facility in Decatur, IL, to produce 1,4 butanediol (BDO) from renewable biomass. The yearly market for the product is roughly $4 billion, currently made from petroleum-derived feedstocks. If Genomatica's renewable feedstocks allow for more economical production -- given high oil costs currently -- the BDO market could provide the company with a much-needed revenue stream.

Bio-Amber produces succinic acid and derivatives (including adipic acid) from renewable feedstocks. Bio-Amber is partnering with CELEXION to develop high volume production of renewable feedstock adipic acid. The yearly market for adipic acid is roughly $8 billion, currently using non-renewable feedstocks.

Phytonix Corporation is licensing a bacterial technology for producing bio-butanol from "sun, CO2, and water.".... Butanol has many uses in the foods, textiles, chemicals, and other industries -- besides its potential use as a gasoline or diesel supplement.

We earlier looked at Amyris' renewable production of farnesene for the perfume industry, and at the pursuit of polyketide synthases by JBEI and Amyris for a variety of purposes.

There is a great deal of money to be made by substituting renewable feedstocks for petroleum, in the production of a wide array of high value chemicals and products. Money up into the hundreds of $billions.

Of course, the fuels market ranges well up into the $trillions, so the ultimate goal would be to break into that market if possible. But that will take from 10 to 20 years to accomplish at medium to large scales, for advanced biofuels. In the meantime, these high-powered companies will be on the prowl for low hanging fruit, to produce early and intermediate term revenue.

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