Avantium and BASF are in a dispute about the future of their Synvina joint venture

Avantium and BASF set up the JV Synvina

“Avantium is a big story in the bioeconomy, but the relationships with big companies as investors are not easy”. To say it at the Sustainable & Circular Bioeconomy Conference in Brussels on October 22 was Jos Peeters, managing partner, founder and director of Capricorn Venture. Indeed, Avantium and BASF are in a dispute about the future of their Synvina joint venture. The companies disagree on the timing for the fulfilment of the criteria to invest in the commercial-scale plant for FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid).

After an internal strategic review, BASF has served a notice to Avantium that if the investment criteria are not fulfilled by 5 December 2018, it is entitled under the joint venture agreement to exit from Synvina. BASF asserts that fulfilment of the investment criteria for the reference plant must be assessed in the fourth quarter of 2018, as originally envisaged in the joint venture agreement.

Avantium disagrees with this interpretation of the joint venture agreement. The Amsterdam-based company is convinced that the 2-3 year extension of the PEF pilot phase announced in January 2018 logically necessitates a postponed final assessment.

Now both companies are discussing possibilities for an amicable settlement to this difference of opinion. Should BASF exit the Synvina joint venture, the IP, people, assets and technology for the production of FDCA and PEF (polyethylenefuranoate) will return to Avantium, allowing it to investigate alternative routes for commercializing the technology.

“We are surprised by BASF’s position. Synvina is actually ahead of the timeline for resolving the technical challenges that led to the postponement announced in January. The work done to date has strengthened our belief in the YXY technology. We are determined to pursue the commercialization of FDCA and PEF – with or without BASF,” says Avantium CEO Tom van Aken.

It’s not the first time BASF exits a collaboration in the bioeconomy. In January 2015 the German chemical giant decided to exit the R&D collaboration with Novozymes and Cargill to develop a bio-based process for producing 3-hydroxypropionic (3-HP) and acrylic acid from renewable raw materials.

In a statement, the Ludwigshafen-based company stated it exited the partnership because it “could not reach the targets for commercialising a dextrose-based product.” BASF joined the collaboration with Novozymes and Cargill in 2012. It is the world’s largest producer of acrylic acid using the conventional route of oxidising propylene from refined crude.

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