Eni chemicals subsidiary Versalis is partnering with process
technology company Genomatica and third-generation integrated
biorefineries firm Novamont to enable production of butadiene
from renewable feedstocks, the companies said on
Butadiene is a raw material used in the production of rubber
for tires, electrical appliances, footwear, plastics, asphalt
modifiers, additives for lubricating oil, pipes, building
components, and latex.
The partnership, on the basis of which a joint venture will
be established, will develop a comprehensive end-to-end process
for production of polymer-grade butadiene from biomass,
Versalis will hold a majority interest in the joint venture
holding company, it said, aiming to be the first to build
commercial plants using the process technology upon project success.
The agreement brings together the core competencies of all
three companies, project officials said.
The partnership will leverage Genomatica's proprietary
technologies and intellectual property for producing butadiene,
Versalis' extensive expertise in catalysis process development
and process engineering scale-up and market applications of
butadiene derivatives, as well as Novamont's experience in
Under the agreement, Versalis will use Genomatica's process
technology for economically
competitive and sustainable production of an important
The process technology aspect of the agreement is intended
to be made available for future licensing in Europe, Africa and
Asia, officials said.
Butadiene is a key intermediate for Versalis
elastomers business. The raw material required to produce it,
extracted from C4 and produced by cracking plants, is
increasingly subject to availability problems, the company
Decreasing supplies and a lack of dedicated butadiene
production facilities have resulted in
significant long-term pressure on the price and volatility of
the chemical, which in turn increases the price of
butadiene-based products, including tires.
Concerns of scarcity in the butadiene market are compounded
by growth forecasts within the BRIC countries where demand for
automotive products made from butadiene, such as tires, is
expected to increase, company officials said.
In this context, butadiene supplies from biomass have become
strategic to Versalis. In times of C4 stream scarcity, it can
be freed from naphtha cracking processes, according to the
"Genomatica's process technology for on-purpose butadiene
combined with our experience in downstream applications and our
ability to rapidly scale and commercialize the process can
expand our industry's approach to C4 production, seizing a
promising business opportunity in a market that is experiencing
a critical time," said Daniele Ferrari, CEO of Versalis.
"This partnership, which follows the establishment of
Matrica, the equal joint venture with Novamont for the
production of monomers, intermediates and polymers from
renewable sources, accelerates the entry of Versalis in that
business by strengthening its leadership in elastomers, in line
with the new strategy of focusing on products with high-added