ZeaChem Inc., a developer of biorefineries for the conversion of renewable feedstocks into sustainable fuels and chemicals, has signed a binding multi-year joint development agreement with Procter & Gamble. The agreement will accelerate development of ZeaChem’s product platform beyond C2 through the commercialization of “drop-in” bio-based chemicals and other products.
Zeachem has begun fermentation work on this new product platform using the same processes and equipment that the company used to prove and scale up its C2 product platform. The new platform also enables ZeaChem to ultimately deploy its technology for the production of other bio-based chemicals as well as drop-in fuels.
ZeaChem currently uses harvested hybrid poplar trees as the feedstock of choice in its combined biochemical and thermochemical process for the production of ethanol. (Earlier post.)
Zeachem uses an acetogen to ferments sugars from biomass to acetic acid. Acetogens have several advantages to yeast: they convert all xylose (C5) and glucose (C6) sugars and tolerate all breakdown products of biomass; they operate in harsh environments; and they produce no CO2 as a by-product. The acetic acid is then converted to an ester which is then hydrogenated to make ethanol. To get the hydrogen necessary to convert the ester to ethanol, ZeaChem takes the lignin residue from the fractionation process and gasifies it to create a hydrogen-rich syngas stream. The hydrogen is separated from the syngas and used for ester hydrogenation and the remainder of the syngas is burned to create steam and power for the process.
The two companies will utilize ZeaChem’s existing infrastructure at its lab in Menlo Park, Calif., pilot facility at Hazen Research in Golden, Colo., and demonstration-scale biorefinery in Boardman, Ore. Together, P&G and ZeaChem will research, develop and demonstrate, scale-up, and commercialize this new product platform.