Amyris, Michelin to develop renewable isoprene

US renewable chemicals and fuels firm Amyris has agreed to work with tire company Michelin on the development and commercialization of Amyris’ No Compromise renewable isoprene, the chemical building block in rubber tires and other products that use synthetic and natural rubbers.

Under the agreement, Amyris and Michelin will partner to contribute funding and technical resources to develop Amyris’ technology to produce isoprene from renewable feedstocks.

Amyris expects to begin to commercialize this isoprene in 2015 for use in tire and other specialty chemical applications such as adhesives, coatings and sealants.

In the deal, Michelin is committed to off-take volumes on a 10-year basis, the companies said. In addition, Amyris retains the right to market its renewable isoprene to other customers.

“This partnership will allow both companies to continue Michelin’s tradition of innovation in the tire industry and expand Amyris’s industrial biotechnology platform for new products,” said John Melo, CEO of Amyris.

“Growing demand for isoprene and a desire to increase the sourcing of sustainable raw materials create a great opportunity for Amyris to bring to market renewable solutions with No Compromise performance that also reduce price volatility," he added.

Amyris’s technology, currently used to produce at commercial scale a 15-carbon molecule called farnesene, can also convert plant-based sugars into isoprene, a 5-carbon molecule and main ingredient in the production of synthetic rubber.

Isoprene has traditionally been produced as a by-product of the thermal cracking of naphtha to produce ethylene or via C4 refinery stream synthesis.

As the petrochemical industry adjusts to lighter cracking slates with the advent of shale gas, new sources of isoprene have become necessary.

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