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Bio-chemicals benefit from new business deal

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UK-headquartered Green Biologics (GB), an international biotechnology company, has announced collaboration and planned investment in facilities with US business Easy Energy Systems (EES).

The collaboration will result in the modification of Easy Energy’s ethanol demonstration plant in Iowa to produce renewable n-butanol and acetone.

‘We’ve been working with Easy Energy for just over a year after we identified its ethanol facility as a potentially good site,’ GB CEO Sean Sutcliffe told Biofuels International. ‘We’ve produced butanol and acetone from corn mash at a 40,000 litre fermentation scale to date.’

The collaboration meant GB did not have to build a new demonstration plant from scratch and Sutcliffe reveals GB ‘ran three separate batches last July which matched results in both total solvent production and n-butanol yields that were achieved in our UK laboratories and our Ohio pilot facility’

‘From these demonstration runs we have validated fermentation performance at scale meeting our commercial targets,’ he adds.

This scale-up complements commercial-scale demonstration work already achieved by GB in China two years ago. It partnered with Laihe Rockley Biochemical in 2011 to eventually produce ‘the world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic n-butanol from residual corn waste’.

‘The Chinese commercial trial run was completed last June at 3.2 million litre fermentation scale in one of three 50,000 tonne/year production units,’ Sutcliffe explains. ‘We imported 55 tonnes of that product to the US and are now marketing the material for chemical applications.’

GB places the global n-butanol market at $10 billion (€7.6 billion) and, although it has business interests in Europe, China, India, Brazil and the UK, it is concentrating on progress in the US primarily because ‘it has lots of facilities in place and support for renewables is high’.

‘We’ll be using corn feedstock for our work in the US due to its abundance, but molasses would figure in places like India and Brazil,’ says Sutcliffe. ‘Cellulosic feedstock will play a big part in Europe and I’m excited about the potential municipal soild waste (MSW) holds in that regard. It is low-cost and diverts waste away from landfill.’

GB has been studying the utilisation of MSW for n-butanol production at one of its UK laboratories, research that was funded by the Technology Strategy Board.