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Global Bioenergies announces breakthrough toward biojet fuel

Global Bioenergies announces breakthrough toward biojet fuel

Global Bioenergies, a French company producing light liquid hydrocarbons derived from agricultural products using biological methods, has made major advances in its process for converting plant-based feedstocks into isobutene. The resulting improved performance will speed up penetration of the cosmetics market over the next few  years and allows to target production costs that would make this process the world  leader for converting industrial sugars into biojet fuel.  

Since 2019, Global Bioenergies has focused on cosmetics applications for its process, isobutene  derivatives being an important input for these markets, and recently launched its own make-up  brand, LAST®, the first to combine longwear performance with low transfer in an over 90% natural product.  

It is now building a production unit at Pomacle site near Reims, so the industry’s big names can  start buying into this innovation, increasing the naturalness of their make-up formulations. The  unit will come onstream in the first quarter 2022 with annual capacity of around 100 tonnes.  

Global Bioenergies plans a larger plant for 2024, that will be able to produce thousands of tonnes  and serve the vastly bigger skincare and haircare markets. Renewable isobutene derivatives will  replace the fossil-fuel based ingredients currently used in skin and hair formulations. They will  also help substitute volatile silicons which are being phased out by regulators. 

These latest advances in process performance mean Global Bioenergies can now forge ahead  faster with its step-by-step development plan. It opens the way toward its historic aim of making  a positive environmental impact on a global scale via the mass production of biofuels. Specifically,  the process could lead to aviation biofuels, a first flight took place this year, to massively  decarbonise air travel. 

“Until now, the process  worked well and in a replicable fashion, but performances seemed to have hit a ceiling. A long-term study showed that a specific component, produced in low volumes, was quietly poisoning the strain during the production phase. We were able to construct new strains that were virtually  free of this poison, unleashing big gains in process performance,”  Romain Chayot, head of the Strain Construction Department.

Pierre Monsan, pioneer in industrial biology and Director at Global Bioenergies, said: “The  company has been doing remarkable work here. It started with a recent scientific study of the  level of excellence published in Nature Communications, which made it possible to identify what  was constraining the efficiency of our initial process. With the new strains, the benefits of  fermenting a gas, which is extracted spontaneously from the reaction medium by volatilisation  rather than building up, become clear. The process thus moves us a step closer to achieving  optimal continuous performance, the holy grail in our field of industrial biology. Besides the  scientific achievement, we are now getting close to having the cheapest production costs in the  field, and becoming a big player in the emerging global competition for biojet fuel.” 

“Since 2017, we have been  working with SkyNRG, our partner in the EU-funded REWOFUEL project, to get our technology  approved for air travel by ASTM, the international regulator for aviation biofuel. We expect to get the certification of our components for commercial flights in 2022 from the task force of aircraft  and engine manufacturers,” said Bernard Chaud, Head of Industrial Strategy at Global Bioenergies.

Marc Delcourt, co-founder and CEO of Global Bioenergies, explained: “Many solutions, such as  electric or hydrogen-powered planes, have been put forward as ways to cut the externalities of  air travel, i.e. the environmental destruction caused by flights’ CO2 emissions. But the consensus  has identified biojet fuel as the best solution for the next few decades. Biojet fuel has a modest  additional cost – which is falling anyway as oil prices spiral – and will be usable in existing planes  without engine modifications.  

After an initial phase working with plant-oil-based biojet fuel that has now reached certain limits,  global priorities are turning toward more productive processes based on industrial sugars that  can reduce CO2 by a factor of 3-5. Our exclusive “deeptech” technology is addressing this  environment. Our strategy follows a four-step roadmap, focusing short-term on the cosmetics  market, which has lower volumes but higher margins than energy. Our recent technical progress  has confirmed our conviction that our process can be scaled up in future to serve the big energy  markets. 

Reducing the CO2 emissions of aircraft is one of the 10 objectives of the France 2030 plan. The  multiple applications of our process (cosmetics, air transport, plastics, rubbers, specialty and  commodity chemicals) mean we can decarbonise our industries on a grand scale. Our factories  will rely on farm inputs and be rooted in the regions. Rolling out our process will thus help  strengthen France’s industrial and energy sovereignty.