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Global Bioenergies starts scale-up of its second process: renewable acetone and isopropanol

Global Bioenergies has started the scale-up phase of a process converting renewable resources into acetone and isopropanol. The markets for both these 3-carbon compounds are well established and worth billions of dollars. In a further process, these two compounds can be converted to propylene, a key petrochemical building block with a market valued in excess of US$100 billion. The process has been transferred to ARD, a specialist in scaling up fermentation processes, and the first pilot run has been successfully completed.

Founded in 2008, Global Bioenergies develops processes to convert renewable resources into fuels and materials. Its most technically mature process is for the production of isobutene, a 4-carbon compound, from which fuels and materials are derived. While the process continues to be improved in the laboratory, demo plant trials are under way, and a full-scale plant project is being studied in a joint venture with Cristal Union, Europe’s fourth-largest sugar producer.

The second process in the portfolio to enter the scale-up phase targets the production of acetone and isopropanol, two 3-carbon (C3) compounds that are extensively used in a wide range of industries (solvents, materials, cosmetics). These compounds can subsequently be converted into propylene, a key molecule in the plastics industry.

The isobutene and C3 processes target different markets which together constitute the core of the petrochemical industry.
—Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies

This innovative process is based on converting renewable resources by fermentation using bacterial strains with an engineered cellular metabolism. In nature, some bacteria produce acetone, but with a limited yield. Global Bioenergies’ innovation consists in radically remodeling the core carbon metabolism of the strains thereby unlocking high yields of sugar conversion.

The “C3 process” has been transferred to ARD, a company installed on the Pomacle-Bazancourt agro-industrial site, which specializes in scaling up fermentation processes. A first fermentation run was successfully completed.

This first C3 process scale-up run has enabled the successful production of a mix of acetone and isopropanol at kilogram scale. We could reach ton scale production as early as 2018.

—Yvon le Hénaff, CEO of ARD

Using strains whose core metabolism is engineered has enabled us to exceed the maximum fermentation yield obtainable by natural glycolysis-based bacteria in the lab, while maintaining an important carbon flux towards the targeted products. In the future, these high-yield bacteria could be used to produce many other products.

—Frédéric Pâques, Chief Operations Officer of Global Bioenergies

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