Braskem and Genomatica develop a new technology for the production of bio-butadiene

Christophe Schilling, Ceo of Genomatica
Christophe Schilling, Ceo of Genomatica

Braskem, the largest petrochemical producer in the Americas and the world’s leading biopolymer producer, and Genomatica, a U.S. biotechnology company, have signed an agreement for the joint development of a new technology for the production of butadiene from renewable feedstocks. Through this partnership, Braskem reaffirms its commitment to invest in the research of producing chemicals from renewable feedstocks, effectively strengthening its leadership role in this segment.

Braskem’s objective with bio-based butadiene is to primarily serve the synthetic rubber market, whose demand is currently met by naphtha-based butadiene, of which the company is already the world’s third-largest producer. With the expectation of a recovery in global economic growth over the coming years, company’s forecast calls for growing demand for butadiene based elastomers by tire manufacturers, who are the largest consumers of butadiene.

The research program conducted jointly by the Brazilian company and Genomatica will seek not only to find alternatives that are based on renewable feedstocks, but on developing routes that are also competitive in terms of production cost. Braskem, together with Genomatica, will dedicate a team of researchers to the development of this technology. Under the agreement, provided the results are successful, Braskem and Genomatica will build pilot and demonstration plants. The agreement gives Braskem certain exclusivity rights to the technology’s use in the Americas.

“Braskem has a clear strategy for investing in the research and development of renewable based chemical technologies as alternatives to complement our current product portfolio based on petrochemicals. In 2010, we became the world leader in biopolymers when we announced the production of plastic made from sugarcane, and we are now further reinforcing this vision,” said Alexandre Elias, director of Renewable Chemicals at Braskem.

According to Christophe Schilling, Ceo of Genomatica, the agreement will help strengthen their position as a developer and licensor of bio-based process technologies to chemical manufacturers. “Our partnership brings the industry closer to commercializing a more sustainable and cost-predictable butadiene”, said Schilling. Genomatica, which was founded in 1998 by researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), holds 71 issued patents and 450 additional patent applications and has been applying its intellectual property and technology platform to develop multiple approaches for the commercial production of bio-based butadiene, using multiple renewable feedstocks.

In addition to serving as a raw material for the tire industry, butadiene based materials are also used in home appliances, footwear, plastics, asphalt modifiers, oil lubricant additives, tubing, construction components and latex. Butadiene produced by traditional technological routes has suffered a structural shortage in the Americas due to the growth of shale gas, which, unlike naphtha, generates almost no co-products.

Since September 2010, Braskem has produced polyethylene resin made from sugarcane ethanol on an industrial scale, which is a 100% renewable material. It invested R$500 million in the construction of a plant located in the Triunfo Petrochemical Complex in the South of Brazil with a capacity to produce 200 kton of bioplastic annually. Identified by the “I’m greenTM” seal, the green polyethylene developed in Brazil is used to make a wide range of food packaging and consumer goods.

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