France-headed Global Bioenergies (GBE), an industrial biotechnology process developer, has announced that it has reached a new milestone in scaling up its C3 process converting renewable resources into isopropanol and acetone. These two biobased compounds target large markets in the cosmetics and solvent segments. They can also be converted into polypropylene, a key component in the plastics industry, with an estimated global market value exceeding US$70 billion.
According to Global Bioenergies, a first pilot run was successfully conducted in December 2017. A demonstration run of several cubic meters, representing a further 20 fold increase in scale has now been successfully carried out and “paves the way” towards a first commercial plant.
At the end of 2017, ARD, who operates Global Bioenergies’ industrial pilot for its isobutene process, carried out the first step in scaling-up the C3 process. The next phase, at demonstration plant scale, was subcontracted to Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) located in Delft in the Netherlands. ARD and BPF are both members of the Smartpilots consortium, which gathers the main European institutions focused at scaling up innovative processes.
The close collaboration between the teams at Global Bioenergies and BPF was key to reach success. BPF has shown reactivity and a thorough industrial experience. The results not only validate this scale-up step, but also demonstrate the robustness of our process, said Frédéric Pâques, COO of Global Bioenergies.
Second demo-scale biobased process
The C3 process, which enables the production of renewable isopropanol and acetone, is the second process reaching demo plant scale in Global Bioenergies’ portfolio. This process is based on a breakthrough innovation: bacteria with a core metabolism rewired in order to increase the production yields from sugars, and thus reduce the production costs of biobased products.
The two compounds, isopropanol and acetone, are used by many industries (solvents, materials, cosmetics) and can be converted into propylene and eventually polypropylene, a key component in the plastics industry that according to the company, has a global market value exceeding US$70 billion.
The trend and market pull on these biobased molecules, including green polypropylene, is driven by commitments to sustainability from large corporations in the food, cosmetics, toys and furniture industries.
This is the final scale of fermentation before commercial operations. A number of validations remain to be done and engineering studies have only recently begun, but we are already engaged in concrete discussions with major international industrialists to partner on the commercial deployment of the process. The C3 process is now the second pillar upon which value is being created at Global Bioenergies, after the isobutene process, said Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies.