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Global Bioenergies, Clariant and INEOS to demonstrate production of isobutene derivatives from straw

European "bio-based" technology development majors are teaming up in EU co-funded project. Led by France-headed biotechnology developer Global Bioenergies, the Horizon 2020 project OPTISOCHEM aims to demonstrate new advanced biochemicals and biofuels value chain for wheat straw by converting it into isobutene derivatives.

Global Bioenergies completes construction of Leuna biomass-to-isobutene demo plant (photo Gunter Binsack).

Global Bioenergies commissioned its Leuna biomass-to-isobutene demo plant last December (photo Gunter Binsack).

France-headed Global Bioenergies has announced that it has signed a grant agreement aiming at demonstrating a new value chain combining its isobutene process with technologies developed by two of Europe’s chemical majors, Clariant and INEOS respectively.

The aim of the OPTISOCHEM project, a European Union (EU) co-funded project under the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, is to convert wheat straw into second generation renewable isobutene for subsequent conversion into oligomers usable in the lubricants, rubbers, solvents, plastics, or fuels. The two-year project gets underway next month.

The agreement signed recently between the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU) and the project partners focuses on the demonstration of a new value chain, based on the combination of the technologies and know-how of the participants from four European Union (EU) Member States:

  • Conversion of straw into glucose- and xylose-rich hydrolysates by Clariant Sunliquid technology (Germany)
  • Fermentation of the straw hydrolysates into bio-isobutene by Global Bioenergies (France and Germany)
  • Conversion of bio-isobutene to oligomers by INEOS (Belgium and France)
  • Preliminary engineering of an hydrolysate-to-isobutene plant and overall integration with a straw-to-hydrolysate plant, by TechnipFMC and IPSB (France)
  • Assessment of the sustainability and environmental benefits by the Energy Institute at the University of Linz (Austria)

The BBI-JU, a public-private partnership between the EU and the Bio-Industries Consortium (BIC), is dedicated to realizing the European bioeconomy potential, turning biological residues and wastes into greener everyday products through innovative technologies and bio-refineries, expected to become the heart of the bioeconomy.

– This support from the BBI-JU will further anchor our European presence and our strategy to diversify resources: our isobutene process is up and running in the Leuna demo plant based on first-generation sugars. Under this agreement, we will demonstrate the suitability of second-generation sugars, such as straw hydrolysate and prepares the full-scale deployment of this new value chain, said Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies.

The programme covers a total budget of EUR 16.4 million of which EUR 9.8 million will be provided by BBI-JU, with the remainder being contributed by the participants. Global Bioenergies will receive funding amounting to EUR 4.4 million for its R&D activities at its Evry site and its pilot plant in Pomacle both located in France, and its demo plant in Leuna, Germany.

– This project will demonstrate a key value chain within the bio-economy: advanced biorefineries based on agricultural residues. We will deliver from our pre-commercial plant in Straubing (Germany) second generation sugars to Global Bioenergies’ facilities for conversion to bio-isobutene, having already demonstrated in 2016 the perfect technology fit between our Sunliquid platform and Global Bioenergies’ Isobutene process. The larger scale demonstration will now prove technological and economic feasibility for commercial production in the future, said Dr Markus Rarbach, Head of Biofuels & Derivatives of Clariant.

– INEOS has over fifty years of experience in Oligomerisation of isobutene based products which are used in markets such as lubricants, rubbers, cosmetics, plastics, solvents, and fuels. Being a global chemical producer, INEOS is delighted to be able to test this innovation which will help to increase the share of renewable products on the market. It might also allow INEOS to diversify its feedstock base and supply its customer with bio-based products, Jan Vermeersch, Commercial Director Oligomers-Europe at INEOS.

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