Renewable Fuels

Global Bioenergies and Clariant announce first isobutene production from wheat straw

Global Bioenergies and Clariant announce first isobutene production from wheat straw
Photo courtesy of Global Bioenergies.

Global Bioenergies and Clariant announced the first isobutene production from a wheat straw hydrolysate, in the industrial pilot plant in Pomacle Bazancourt, Reims, France.

This success is the result of a collaboration initiated more than 18 months ago between Global Bioenergies and Clariant. This was made possible by combining Clariant’s proprietary process, allowing for the conversion of agricultural residues into sugar-rich hydrolysates, with Global Bioenergies’ proprietary process for the production of isobutene from various industrial-grade sugars.

Clariant has produced the wheat straw hydrolysate, rich in non-food/non-feed second-generation sugar, at its Straubing facility in Germany. This hydrolysate was converted into renewable isobutene in Global Bioenergies’ industrial pilot plant operated by ARD at its Pomacle-Bazancourt facility. ARD, which is owned by a consortium of large French agro-businesses, is a private collaborative R&D centre in the field of biotechnology and bio-based chemistry.

Clariant has developed a process allowing for the extraction of sugars from agricultural residues. These so-called second-generation (2G) sugars are produced as hydrolysates. Clariant’s pre-commercial plant at Straubing can provide large amounts of such sugars and transform them into ethanol, using the sunliquid® process, with a capacity of 1,000 tonnes ethanol output per year. The production of isobutene opens the door for a more general use of 2G sugars, beyond the ethanol market.

Global Bioenergies develops a process allowing for the production of bio-based isobutene by fermentation of various industrial-grade sugars. Isooctane, a derivative of isobutene, is an ideal additive for gasoline. Isooctane has by definition an octane rating of 100, associated with a low-vapour pressure, two features ensuring better engine performance and environmental impact.

Global Bioenergies has been actively investigating new potential feedstocks since 2014. The success of this approach, at the laboratory scale, was announced in March 2015, after a first round of tests using various non-food/non-feed sugars, including samples provided by Clariant. Scaling-up this approach in the Pomacle industrial pilot plant is an important milestone towards an integrated process from agricultural residues to isobutene.

The result demonstrates the maturity, the complementarity and the versatility of the two proprietary processes, according to Global Bioenergies.

“It is an important day in the history of our company: we know today that we can convert agricultural residues into isobutene, our lead product, at a pre-industrial scale. Having access to a broader range of feedstocks enhances the potential of our process, and makes it a pioneering element of the bio-economy,” said Frédéric Pâques, COO of Global Bioenergies.

“These results demonstrate the quality of Clariant’s 2G sugars. 2G sugars have so far been used mostly for ethanol production. This success illustrates their potential with other industrial biology processes, and notably with Global Bioenergies’ process,” said Markus Rarbach, head of Biofuels & Derivatives.

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