Solazyme and Bunge form joint venture for commercial-scale renewable oil production facility in Brazil
|Solazyme produces tailored oils using heterotrophic algae grown in industrial fermenters. Source: Solazyme. Click to enlarge.|
Algae-based renewable oil company Solazyme, Inc. and Bunge Global Innovation LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of agribusiness and food company Bunge Limited, along with other Bunge subsidiaries have signed definitive agreements forming a joint venture to build, own and operate a commercial-scale renewable tailored oils production facility adjacent to Bunge’s Moema sugarcane mill in Brazil. (Earlier post.)
The JV, which will operate under the name Solazyme Bunge Produtos Renováveis Ltda., will have an expected annual production capacity of 100,000 metric tons of oil. The facility will utilize Solazyme’s renewable tailored oil production technology, coupled with Bunge’s sugarcane supply and processing capabilities, to produce sustainable tailored triglyceride oils for use in oleochemical and fuel applications in the Brazilian domestic market. Financial terms of the agreements were not disclosed.
Solazyme uses heterotrophic microalgae—i.e., they grow in the dark (in fermenters) by consuming sugars derived from plants that have already harnessed the sun’s energy. Using standard industrial fermentation equipment, Solazyme can scale and accelerate microalgae’s natural oil production time to just a few days and at commercial levels.
Further, Solazyme can design and produce novel tailored oils that cannot be achieved through blending of existing oils alone. The company optimizes microalgae to produce oil profiles with different carbon chain lengths, saturation levels and functional groups to modify important oil characteristics.
As an example in the fuels sector, Solazyme tailors its oil to meet refiner requirements and can be optimize it for refining processes. Refining of Solazyme oils tailored to make diesel fuel yields a substantially higher percentage of finished diesel by volume (more than 85%) than conventional petroleum, according to the company.
The tailored oils we expect to produce will not only expand our portfolio and address the growing demand of the fuels and oleochemicals industries, but also increase our capabilities to leverage new technologies for future opportunities in sugar and bioenergy.—Ben Pearcy, Managing Director, Sugar & Bioenergy, and Chief Development Officer, Bunge Limited
The facility, which will be equally financed by Solazyme and Bunge, has been designed to integrate with a new cogeneration unit at the Moema mill, and can be expanded for further production in line with market demand. Startup is expected in the second half of 2013.
The announcement of the new JV follows a history of collaboration between the two companies, beginning with Bunge’s 2010 equity investment in Solazyme, followed by a May 2011 Bunge-funded Joint Development Agreement (JDA) to develop oils that could be sold commercially.
Also in May 2011, Solazyme granted warrants to Bunge for the purchase of Solazyme shares, conditional on key milestones related to the timely implementation of the JV and plant construction. In August 2011, Solazyme and Bunge announced that they had entered into a Joint Venture Framework Agreement setting forth the preliminary terms of the JV and commencing engineering for the plant. This series of agreements has now culminated in the formation of the JV.