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Global Bioenergies complete construction of German bio-isobutene demo plant

Global Bioenergies has announced that the construction of its biomass-to-isobutene demo plant in Germany has been completed. The world's first-of-a-kind facility is now awaiting plant certification from the German certification authority TÜV in order to begin operations.

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

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

Global Bioenergies, a French biotechnology development company has announced that the construction of its biomass-to-isobutene demo plant at the Fraunhofer CBP Leuna refinery platform in Germany has been completed. The world’s first-of-a-kind facility, which began construction mid-2015 is now awaiting plant certification from the German certification authority TÜV in order to begin operations.

– The design of this demo plant is unique. It borrows both from the fermentation and the petrochemical worlds. We are now eager to obtain the plant certification from TÜV and expect to bring this Demo plant to life over the coming weeks, said Rick Bockrath, Global Bioenergies’ Vice-President for Chemical Engineering in a statement.

According to the company, the Leuna demo plant is currently the “only” facility worldwide dedicated to the “direct fermentation of gaseous hydrocarbons”. The 100 tonne per annum nameplate capacity plant was financed in part by the German Federal Ministry for Research (BMBF) through a EUR 5.7 million grant and through a EUR 4.4 million loan from a consortium of French banks (Société Générale, BNP-Paribas, CM-CIC and BPI).

– Building this demo plant was a long journey and has involved numerous subcontractors. Our Leuna team assumed the role of general contractor and synchronising these entities was a very complex task, but it kept the technological know-how in-house. Our success today in reaching completion demonstrates our ability to successfully execute highly innovative technology projects, said Ales Bulc, CEO of Global Bioenergies’ German subsidiary.

Platform molecule

The demo plant will allow the conversion of industrial-grade sugars from various sources such as sugar beet, sugarcane, glucose syrup from cereals, second generation sugars extracted from wheat straw, bagasse and woodchips into high-purity isobutene, a versatile platform molecule used in fuels, materials and chemicals. In the fuel sector, it is used to manufacture isooctane, ETBE and MTBE which are valuable compounds used in gasoline blends. It can also be converted into isododecane, a compound found in jet fuel. Isobutene is also used to manufacture a wide variety of materials and chemicals such as rubbers, plastics, organic glass, paints and cosmetics. The scaling-up of Global Bioenergies’ technology to commercial scale will enable significant carbon footprint reductions in these key industrial domains.

– In the next months and years, our Leuna demo plant will allow us to further validate the technology in an industrial environment and to deliver ton-scale batches to various industrialists. We expect numerous new collaborations with industrialists to be set up once the demo plant is in operation, said Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies.

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