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Global Bioenergies and Cristal Union form JV to produce renewable isobutene

Global Bioenergies, a developer of one-step fermentation processes for the direct and cost-efficient transformation of renewable resources into light olefins, and Cristal Union, the 4th largest European beet producer, have formed IBN-One, a joint venture to build and operate the first plant in France converting renewable resources into isobutene.

Global Bioenergies has engineered an initial series of bacterial strains that can produce light olefins via the fermentation of sugars. The process is designed to be used downstream from multiple sugar production pathways: sugar, starch and cellulose. The process can thus be used with cellulosic biomass, following pretreatment and hydrolysis. The company has targeted renewable isobutene as its first product. (Earlier post.)

Isobutene is a key chemical building block that can be converted into transportation fuels, polymers and various commodity chemicals. Global Bioenergies has just delivered the first batch of renewable gasoline produced using Global Bioenergies’ fermentative isobutene pathway to its partner Audi. (Earlier post.)

IBN-One is a societe anonyme (limited liability corporation) with share capital of €1,000,000, jointly owned by Cristal Union and Global Bioenergies; the plant could be operational by 2018.

Ahead of IBN-One’s formation, Global Bioenergies and Cristal Union conducted a preliminary design study at several potential industrial sites. Initially, IBN-One will carry out a detailed project study covering technical, regulatory, commercial and financial aspects to flesh out the project planned in France.

Global Bioenergies has granted IBN-One a non-exclusive license to use its isobutene process for a 50,000 tonne capacity plant to be located in France.

Right from the outset, our plan was to grant non-exclusive licenses on a plant-by-plant basis. With the increasing technological maturity of the isobutene process, we can now turn this dream into reality. Many other licenses are expected to be granted over the next few years.

—Marc Delcourt, Chairman and CEO of Global Bioenergies

BN-One provides a bridge between the sugar and petrochemicals industry. The markets for fossil isobutene in materials and fuel are very large indeed. The development of market share for renewable isobutene has opened up new prospects for French agriculture and dovetails perfectly with the policy of increasing beet-growing areas planned by Cristal Union with the end of sugar quotas looming.

—Alain Commissaire, CEO of Cristal Union

IBN-One is expected to finance the cost of the engineering work with a financing round scheduled for 2016. Expressions of interest have already been received from public and private investors. Construction and start-up of the plant will require additional funding.

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