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Global Bioenergies reports successful production of isobutene by fermentation in industrial pilot

Audi partner Global Bioenergies (GBE) has successfully carried out its first isobutene production trial at its industrial pilot site in Pomacle-Bazancourt. A production run was initiated on 3 November, resulting in the first production of isobutene—a gaseous hydrocarbon—by fermentation in an industrial environment. This marks the first fermentative production of isobutene outside of Global Bioenergies’ R&D laboratories located in Evry near Paris.

In the coming months, a new campaign of runs will be carried out, with the objectives of process optimization and production of samples. These samples will then be shipped to various partners, such as Audi with whom Global Bioenergies has signed collaboration agreements. (Earlier post.)

(GBE will supply Audi with isooctane derived from isobutene produced at the pre-commercial pilot system.)

The fermentation of gaseous hydrocarbons is a new frontier. We have today taken a giant leap forward which will be followed within the next 18 months by the start-up of a second industrial pilot with a nameplate capacity of 100 tons per year in Germany. We already contemplate the commercialization of full scale plants in the framework of industrial partnerships within 3 to 4 years.

—Rick Bockrath, Vice President for Chemical Engineering at Global Bioenergies

Since 2008, Global Bioenergies has been developing a fermentation process that targets gaseous isobutene. After having completed a first stage that led to the initial proof of concept in 2009, the Company built a prototype in 2010. An extensive campaign of trials in laboratory-scale pilots of various sizes had been conducted since then.

The next hurdle consisted in scaling up the process and adapting it to an industrial environment. To address this novel technical challenge Global Bioenergies had obtained a €4 million in financing from the French State in 2013.

The first objective was to build a fermenter adapted to the fermentation of gaseous hydrocarbons. Following phases dedicated to engineering and construction, the fermenter was installed in July 2014 at the heart of the Pomacle-Bazancourt industrial complex.

After a long phase of mechanical and functional validations, Global Bioenergies’ chemical engineering team decided that the required safety conditions were met to carry out a first trial. It was performed at the beginning of November over three days.

This trial relied on the expertise of the company ARD (Agro-industrie Recherches et Développements) which is now in charge of the operation of Global Bioenergies’ pilot, as part of an agreement signed recently.



Surely anaerobic digestion for methane production has many of these advantages (production of gaseous hydrocarbon) with less stringent feedstock requirements. Or is it just the production of isobutene directly that is important for its substitution in industrial processes and easier storage?

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