BBI JU OPTISOCHEM project produces ‘quality’ batches of straw-based isobutene

16 February 2019

France-headquartered Global Bioenergies has teamed up with chemical company Clariant to produce quality batches of wheat straw-based isobutene at its Germany-based Leuna demo plant. The production of cellulosic isobutene is part of OPTISOCHEM, a BBI JU project that started in June 2017.

OPTISOCHEM is a BBI JU project converting wheat straw into bio-based chemicals.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate a new value chain combining Global Bioenergies bio-isobutene process with technologies developed by Clariant and chemical company Ineos. Under the project, underutilised residual wheat straw has been converted at demo scale into 2nd-generation renewable bio-isobutene, and will eventually be transformed into oligomers and polymers, which can be used in lubricants, rubbers, cosmetics, solvents, plastics or fuels applications.

Each player has different roles to play in the project. Clariant converts the wheat straw into glucose and xylose-rich hydrolysates. Global Bioenergies ferments the straw hydrolysates into bio-isobutene. Ineos converts the bio-isobutene into oligomers and polymers.

Markus Rarbach, Head of Biofuels & Derivatives of Clariant, said: 'OPTISOCHEM is demonstrating a key value chain within the bio-economy: advanced bio-refineries based on agricultural residues. From our pre-commercial plant in Straubing, Germany, we have supplied cellulosic sugars in tons scale to Global Bioenergies facilities for conversion to bio-isobutene during the first period of the project. We are very pleased with the excellent results from all partners and will continue to provide additional quantities in the next phases so as to prepare for eventual commercial production in the future.'

Frédéric Pâques, COO of Global Bioenergies, added: 'During this first period, we successfully increased the performances of our micro-organism on traditional substrate such as sucrose and adapted our best microbial chassis to straw hydrolysates. We successfully run our pilot facility in Pomacle, France, and our demo facility in Leuna, Germany, both with straw hydrolysate and sucrose as a benchmark. We expect to produce several tons of bio-isobutene on this new non-conventional feedstock in the remaining periods of the project.'

Jean-François Boideau, EMEA Commercial General Manager at INEOS Oligomers, said: 'Our sites have over fifty years of experience in the production of oligomers and polymers of isobutene which are used in lubricants, rubbers, cosmetics, plastics, solvents, and fuels. To date, we received several batches of bio-isobutene from Global Bioenergies for qualification purpose, and the quality is promising.'

During the next phase of the project, INEOS is ready to evaluate conversion of additional quantities of bio-isobutene into downstream products in order to assess the potential of this bio-based feedstock as a building block for end consumer applications. 

According to Global Bioenergies, the R&D segment of the OPTISOCHEM project will continue until May 2021.

Source: Bio Market Insights