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Global Bioenergies receives €1M payment after improvements in bio-isobutene process

Global Bioenergies (GBE) received a payment of €1 million (US$1.2 million) from ADEM (French Environment & Energy Management Agency), which operates the Investissements d’Avenir (Investments in the Future) program on behalf of the French government. This payment follows improvements in performance levels of GBE’s bio-isobutene process and the completion of a key step.

The ISOPROD project (earlier post) aims to validate (i) the production of bio-based isobutene on an industrial scale from beet substrates and (ii) the implementation of bio-based isobutene in industrial processes currently using fossil isobutene.

The ISOPROD project will replace isobutene of fossil origin with isobutene of renewable origin with a better environmental and energy balance. The objective is to avoid 2 kg of CO2 per kg of bio-isobutene.

The ISOPROD project has the following specific objectives:

  • The adaptation of the Isobutene process to sugar refinery residues;

  • The engineering for the first plant carried by IBN-One, the joint venture between Global Bioenergies and Cristal Union; and

  • The validation of bio-isobutene derivatives in the fuel and cosmetics sector.

The process has achieved a level of performance that from now on would allow its exploitation in a full-scale plant to be competitive in a number of high value-added markets, such as cosmetics.

—Bernard Chaud, Director of Industrial Strategy at Global Bioenergies

The completion of this key step is a reflection on the major progresses recently achieved in adapting our Isobutene process to sugar refinery residues. This payment from ADEME adds to the grant prepayment of the four new European projects recently announced. Recovering the government R&D tax credit on the short term will bring our (unaudited) cash position to more than €11 million.

—Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies

Global Bioenergies was founded in 2008 to develop a process converting renewable resources (sugar, crops, agricultural and forestry waste) into isobutene, one of the main petroleum derivatives. Its approach, based on gas fermentation, has two major advantages that can bring down operating costs:

  • The liquid product that builds up in the reactor in conventional fermentation processes is toxic to the microorganism. In the GBE process, the product evaporates spontaneously. The process can even be implemented almost continuously.

  • The purification stage is simpler—the isobutene merely has to be extracted from the air, CO2 and steam, rather than having to separate a liquid compound from a complex and varying cultured broth. Conventional methods, tried and tested over many decades, can achieve this.

Isobutene is one of the major building blocks of the petrochemicals industry, and represents a market worth $25 billion and may one day address an additional market worth $400 billion. 15 million tonnes are produced every year and are turned into plastics, rubbers and fuels.

Microorganisms do not naturally produce isobutene; a microorganism converting its nutrients into isobutene, a volatile compound, would soon lose its carbon stores and lose in terms of evolution. GBE engineered its microorganisms using an artificial metabolic pathway—a series of enzymatic reactions created from scratch. When implanted into a host micro-organism, it can convert sugars into isobutene in a several-stage process.



Why isn't anyone working on bio-producing butane? It's pretty much the ideal fuel based on it's energy density (both gravimetric and volumetric) and pressure requirements, which is pretty low.

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