Tim Dummer, VP Rennovia: The industry will migrate to widespread adoption of bioproducts


Tim Dummer, VP Commercialization Rennovia
Tim Dummer, VP Commercialization Rennovia

“With equivalent performance and equivalent costs we anticipate that the industry will migrate to widespread adoption of these bio-based products over time (similar to previous industry shifts to more competitive petro-derived processes)”. To say it, in this exclusive interview with Il Bioeconomista, is Tim Dummer, VP Commercialization at Rennovia, a specialty chemical company focused on the creation of novel processes for the cost advantaged production of chemicals from renewable feedstocks. Rennovia led by Robert Wedinger and based in Santa Clara, California, is developing processes for the production of biobased glucaric acid, adipic acid, 1,6-hexanediol, hexamethylenediamine (HMD), and other important building blocks for a wide range of functional materials. With Dummer we talk about Rennovia and the future of the chemical industry.

Interview by Mario Bonaccorso

Rennovia is developing adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine (HMD, or HMDA), two important building blocks for a wide range of functional materials including nylons and polyurethanes. What is the market value of these two building blocks in the world?

Industry consensus estimates the global market for these 2 building blocks at $10+ B annually: adipic acid = $6+ B (3000+ kTA), HMD = $4+ B (1400+ kTA)

What percentage of the market is your goal?

Global demand growth of 3 to 5% is projected for adipic acid and HMD over the next decade. Consumer demand for renewable products at competitive cost with petro-derived products will determine the share.

From your point of view, can we consider the future of the chemical industry really bio-based?

Rennovia has specifically targeted large volume, high value chemicals where we expect to have cost competitive “drop-in” bio-based chemicals that replace traditional petro-derived chemicals – based on our high efficiency catalysts and processes, and low cost sugar feedstocks (1,6-HDO, HMD, ADA etc). With equivalent performance and equivalent costs we anticipate that the industry will migrate to widespread adoption of these bio-based products over time (similar to previous industry shifts to more competitive petro-derived processes).

You have recently announced a joint development and license agreement with Stora Enso to cooperate on bio-based chemicals development. What is precisely this agreement?

Stora Enso is a leading global pulp & paper company. It has publicly announced its strategy to transform into a bio-materials company. Rennovia has technologies and capabilities to help Stora Enso acheive their goals.

How important is the Biopreferred program in the US to support the development of the bioeconomy?

Currently the USDA Bio-preferred program appears to be a minor factor in government purchasing, but is not widely known or understood by industry or consumers. More information and education is needed for widespread adoption.

Bioeconomy and circular economy are two increasingly prevalent economic paradigms, but that public opinion still does not understand. How can stakeholders and authorities better communicate the benefits of bio-based products compared to those of fossil origin?

Ideally the bio-economy will become a key enabler for the circular economy – resulting in true sustainability. Communication of the benefits of bio-based products need to focus on the following 3 elements (“beyond green”): Performance = Equivalent or better performance vs petro; Cost = Competitive cost vs petro; Sustainability = Reduced environmental impact vs petro.

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