Genomatica Ferments bio-Butanediol at Demonstration Scale
1,4-Butanediol is used industrially as a solvent and in the manufacture of some types of plastics, elastic fibers and polyurethanes. In organic chemistry, 1,4-butanediol is used for the synthesis of γ-butyrolactone (GBL). In the presence of phosphoric acid and high temperature, it dehydrates to the important solvent tetrahydrofuran. At about 200 °C in the presence of soluble ruthenium catalysts, the diol undergoes dehydrogenation to form butyrolactone.
World production of 1,4-butanediol is about one million metric tons per year and market price is about 2,000 USD (1,600 EUR) per ton (2005). Almost half of it is dehydrated to tetrahydrofuran to make fibers such as Spandex. The largest producer is BASF. _Wikipedia
Using engineered micro-organisms, San Diego based Genomatica has achieved demonstration scale fermentation of over $2 billion a year chemical butanediol (BDO) from sugars. Commercial production of bio-BDO is planned for 2012, with rapid scale-up to industrial "world-scale" production by 2014. (h/t GCC)
Current feedstocks for the genomatica platform consist of refined sugars. As depicted above, the company plans to utilise cellulosic sugars from biomass as the cheaper feedstocks become available. Eventual use of syngas from bio-waste as a fermentation feedstock is planned.
As the table above illustrates, BDO is just the first product ($2 billion global production) planned for the Genomatica line. As more biotech companies move into "green chemicals" production using alternative feedstocks to petroleum, the established order in big chemicals is likely to shift considerably.
Expect to see such transformations occurring in the chemical industry before they occur in the fuels industry, due to the higher value per ton of targeted chemicals. Later, many of the same companies who perfect their processes and business models with high value chemicals, will move into much higher volume synthetic fuels production.
Labels: green chemicals