Korea-based SK Innovation is partnering with low-carbon fuels producer LanzaTech to develop a new process technology for the production of 1,3 butadiene, the companies announced on Wednesday.
The collaboration will accelerate the commercialization of an alternative route to butadiene, a chemical increasing in scarcity because of the shale gas boom in the US.
SK has pioneered new refining and petrochemical technology development for many years. SK will work with LanzaTech to develop and integrate this new technology with LanzaTech's gas fermentation process, which converts industrial waste gases and on-purpose syngas derived from the gasification of wastes into low carbon fuels and chemicals.
An estimated $20 billion market, butadiene is a building block in a huge range of materials including synthetic rubber used in tires, belts, hoses, seals, carpet backing and medical latex; molded plastics used in consumer appliances such as vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances and electronic gadgets; nylon 6,6 used in textiles and engineering resins used in automotive engine components; and as a chemical intermediate for adhesives and speciality chemicals.
The move to shale gas in the US is driving butadiene scarcity and businesses are looking for alternative sources. At the same time, rising incomes in emerging markets are increasing demand for automotive purchases, tires, engine components and other consumer goods.
"As customer demand for green chemicals grows, we continue to seek innovative solutions to develop cost-competitive process technologies to serve important global markets," said Dr. Byongsung Kwak, chief technology officer for SK innovation.
"We believe this collaboration provides a great opportunity to combine our expertise in R&D with the unique industrial waste gas fermentation technology LanzaTech has developed in order to increase the supply of biobased butadiene globally," he added.
The development work will be carried out at SK Innovation's state of the art research center in Dae Jon, Korea. The research campus hosts more than 1,500 scientists and engineers and has been in operation since 1995.
The center focuses on research and development of new technologies in energy, petrochemical, and materials industries. It works on a wide range of research areas such as eco-friendly, premium petroleum products, asphalts, lubricants, polymers, green energy and advanced batteries.
"Investment in science, technology and innovation has made Korea one of the world's most dynamic industrial economies with Korean companies increasingly renowned for the quality of their research and development work," said Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech.
"We are excited to work with SK innovation, which is a pioneer in new energy technologies," she added. "The partnership provides LanzaTech with an opportunity to expand and grow our green chemicals portfolio, taking another important step toward our vision of creating a diversified range of fuels and chemicals using waste gas as a resource."
LanzaTech says it aims to meet the increasing global demand for affordable and sustainable fuels and chemicals while also reducing overall emissions by recycling widely available industrial waste resources.
LanzaTech uses a novel biological approach to transform carbon-rich waste gases (from industrial sources like steel mills and processing plants) or syngas generated from any biomass resource (for example, municipal solid waste, organic industrial waste or agricultural waste) into low carbon fuels and chemicals.