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Green Biologics merges with butylfuel

Green Biologics Limited (GBL), a UK-based industrial biotechnology company has merged with butylfuel, a US-based renewable chemicals and biofuels company.


The new company will operate under the Green Biologics name and continue to be head-quartered in Abingdon, UK with a strong operational presence and commercial focus in the US contributed by butylfuel, which will become Green Biologics. The effective date for the all equity merger is January 1, 2012.


‘This merger creates a truly global leader in biobutanol and represents a transformational deal for both companies,’ says Sean Sutcliffe, CEO of the combined GBL group. ‘We are combining GBL’s acknowledged technology leadership and commercialisation expertise in China, India and Brazil with the scale up, operational process experience, and North American business building capabilities of butylfuel.


Both companies already shared a keen interest in the market in China. In August GBL signed an agreement with Laihe Chemical in China.


Under the terms of the agreement GBL and Laihe will collaborate to improve the economics of Laihe's biobutanol plant by optimising GBLs fermentation technology using sugars derived using Laihe cellulosic pre-treatment process.


The company has now successfully demonstrated on  a pilot plant at Laihe. The commercial facility in China, producing 50,000 tonnes of biobutanol and co-products a year, will be up and running within six months. The company then has plans for two more facilities.


‘China is a particularly interesting market,’ says Sutcliffe. ‘There are existing biobutanol plants built to use corn.  However, it is now not economically  feasible to use corn out there, so producers need a solution that can use cellulosic feedstocks at an affordable price.’


In China, GBL has three projects underway on molasses and corn by-product feedstocks. In India and Brazil, GBL’s focus is molasses, cane and bagasse.


In North America, the focus is on both starch-based and cellulosic feedstocks.


Joel Stone, president, North America and global VP of engineering, formerly CEO of butylfuel adds: ‘This is a near perfect fit of a remarkable industrial biotechnology company in GBL with an experienced bioprocessing and commercial scale-up company in butylfuel.’


‘The synergies of GBL’s microbiological and fermentation capabilities and global presence combined with our commercial and operational skills in building and operating large scale fermentation facilities in North America creates a compelling business model, in particular for the commercialisation of biobutanol in North America, the world’s leading advanced renewable chemicals and biofuels market.’


The merged GBL will be a globally managed company focused on the production of C4 chemicals and advanced fuels from renewable feedstocks, primarily from waste and by-product agricultural sources.


GBL has an extensive portfolio of proprietary and engineered Clostridia strains used as biocatalysts to process a wide range of starch, sugar and cellulosic feedstocks.


GBL deploys its technology using a ‘capital light’ business model to leverage existing production assets to reduce operating and capital expenses, and to enable rapid deployment and commercialisation.


Biofuels remains a strategic driver for GBL, with the company’s immediate market focus on butanol and C4 chemicals.


For the near term GBL will focus on producing biobutanol to replace petroleum-based butanol in the chemical industry. Butanol and its derivatives are key intermediates in the production of paints, coatings, adhesives and inks, an $85 billion (€66 billion) global market. Butyl acrylates are also used in the $700 billion global plastics and polymers market.


 ‘By getting biobutanol into the market place it helps drive down costs of production,’ Sutcliffe explains.


 Within 3-5 year GBL plans to turn its attention towards the use of biobutanol as a renewable transport fuel.


 ‘We plan to offer bolt-on plants to ethanol producers, so they don’t have to shut down production,’ Sutcliffe says. ‘We should start seeing our first customers signing up during 2012.’


 The blend stock opportunity for butanol exceeds $80 billion per year. Butanol also has the potential to be upgraded to aviation jet fuel, a $50 billion market driven by increasing global interest on reduction of carbon emissions.