Synthos SA, a European leader in the manufacturing of rubber, and Global Bioenergies SA, an industrial biology company developing sustainable routes to light olefins, signed a partnership agreement to develop a new process for the conversion of renewable resources into butadiene, involving research funding, multi-million euro development fees, royalty payments, repartition of exploitation rights, and a €1.4-million (US$2-million) equity investment in Global Bioenergies, representing a 3.6% stake.
Butadiene is one of the major building blocks of the petrochemical industry and is presently exclusively produced from oil. About 10 million tonnes are produced each year, of which two thirds are used to manufacture synthetic rubber. The last third is used to produce nylon, latices, ABS plastics and other polymers. The spot price of butadiene has recently rose to over $3/kg, and as such the global butadiene market is estimated at $30 billion.
Global Bioenergies, which recently went public, has engineered a series of bacterial strains that can produce isobutene—a gas which can be converted into liquid fuels and various polymers. Global Bioenergies has received €475K (US$680K) in funding from the French innovation agency OSEO to start the industrialization of the company’s process to convert renewable resources into isobutene. The process involves the spontaneous volatilization of gaseous isobutene from the fermentation broth. (Earlier post.)
Both parties have different responsibilities in the project, with Global Bioenergies taking care of research and process development at the laboratory level, and Synthos subsequently taking the process on to the industrialization stage.
Under this agreement Global Bioenergies would receive R&D funding, multi-million euro development fees, and royalty payments from Synthos on sales of bio-butadiene for the manufacturing of rubber. Global Bioenergies will retain the exclusive rights on non-rubber applications.
his butadiene program shares many similarities with our isobutene program, and we expect it will be as successful. The long-term commitments from Synthos and the fact that we retain the exclusive exploitation rights on a $10-billion market has the potential to create an important value for our shareholders.—Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies