Evonik, BioAmber agree to develop catalysts from bio-succinic acid

Germany-based Evonik Industries signed an agreement with US renewable company BioAmber to develop and manufacture catalysts for the production of BDO (1,4- butanediol), THF (tetrahydrofuran) and GBL (gamma - butyrolactone) from bio-based succinic acid.

BDO, THF and GBL are large-volume industrial chemicals used in a range of applications including polymers, paints, adhesives and solvents.

The global market for these products currently made from petrochemicals is $4 billion.

BioAmber manufactures bio-succinic acid from renewable feedstock. The company licensed BDO hydrogenation catalyst technology from DuPont in 2010, which has been further developed with partners Evonik and the Center for Applied Catalysis at Seton Hall University to improve the technology.

In parallel, BioAmber and Evonik have started to develop a new generation of BDO catalysts, the companies said.

BioAmber operates the world's only dedicated production plant for bio-succinic acid in Pomacle, France, with a 350,000 liter commercial-scale fermenter.

The company, together with Mitsui & Co., has broken ground in Sarnia, Canada on a 17,000 tpy bio-succinic acid plant that will be operational in late 2013, with plans to expand capacity to 34,000 tpy of succinic acid, and a 23,000 tpy BDO plant in late 2014.

BioAmber also has plans to build additional succinic acid and BDO plants with Mitsui & Co.

"Through our collaboration with Evonik, we have secured the expertise and capabilities we need to rapidly bring competitive BDO and THF technology to market," said Jean-Francois Huc, BioAmber CEO.

"We are fortunate to have a partner of Evonik's caliber who can both optimize and manufacture our immediate catalyst needs and also develop with us a new generation of catalysts," Huc added.

Evonik develops catalysts for a wide spectrum of reactions and processes in industrial chemicals and petrochemicals, and in the life sciences and fine chemicals segments.

"Chemicals from renewable feedstock for our daily life products become increasingly important as replacements for crude oil-based products", said Dr. Wilfried Eul, head of Evonik's catalysts business line.

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