BioAmber currently produces 3,000 tonnes of bio-based succinic acid per year at this demonstration plant in Pomacle, France. The company has selected Sarnia, Ont. as the location for its first commercial-scale plant.
By Tyler Irving
Posted November 2011
The world’s first commercial-scale bio-based succinic acid plant is set to be built in Sarnia, Ont. The announcement was made this past August by BioAmber Inc., which will build the plant through its subsidiary, Bluewater Biochemicals.
Succinic acid is a chemical building block used in a variety of biodegradable and non-biodegradable plastics. It’s also an ingredient in many flavourings and fragrances, as well as engine coolants and even salts that melt ice and snow. Although it’s traditionally sourced from petroleum products, BioAmber has developed a process that uses microorganisms to produce succinic acid from a variety of biomass sugars. “The initial feedstock for the plant in Sarnia will be corn syrup, which is mostly glucose,” says Jim Millis, BioAmber’s chief technology officer. “Our intent is to source whatever will be the lowest-cost glucose, but certainly the Ontario-based corn processing plants are one of those options,” Millis adds. Eventually, the company plans to use cellulosic agricultural waste like corn stover as a feedstock.
In addition to being close to agricultural land, Sarnia was chosen for its combination of chemical infrastructure, skilled labour and competitive transportation costs. In addition, the plant received a total of about $35 million in support from the O ntario Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance. “This is the first biobased chemical company to build a plant in North America,” says Murray McLaughlin, president and CEO of the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance. “It says that Sarnia and Canada are a place to do business in the new economy of biobased chemistry.”
The plant is expected to cost about $80 million and is set expected to begin production in 2013. Its initial capacity will be 17,000 metric tonnes of biosuccinic acid per year. Through the introduction of next-generation yeast, the company hopes to eventually double that production to 35,000 metric tonnes per year. The product will be sold in markets in North America, Asia and Europe.
Photo Credit: BioAmber Inc.
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