BP, Virent and Johnson Matthey in Bio-PX Pact

  • BP, Virent and Johnson Matthey in Bio-PX Pact (c) BPBP, Virent and Johnson Matthey in Bio-PX Pact (c) BP

BP, Virent and Johnson Matthey have agreed to collaborate to further progress the commercialization of Virent’s Bioforming process for producing bio-paraxylene (PX), a key raw material for renewable polyester.

Under the terms of the agreement, BP will provide technical resources and also have exclusive rights to negotiate becoming the sole manufacturer of bio-PX using Virent’s technology.

“We consider Virent’s technology to be the leading route to commercial quantities of renewable bio-PX that may enable BP’s existing petrochemicals plants to produce a distinctive product in support of our commitment to advance a low carbon future,” said Charles Damianides, BP’s vice-president of petrochemicals technology and licensing.

The Bioforming route is based on a novel combination of aqueous phase reforming (APR) technology with modified conventional catalytic processing. The technology converts plant-based sugars into a range of drop-in hydrocarbon products that are identical to their petroleum-based counterparts. Virent said it can work with conventional sugars such as those obtained from existing sources (for example, corn wet mills and sugarcane mills), as well as a wide variety of cellulosic biomass from non-food sources.

In July 2016, Virent formed a consortium with Johnson Matthey, Toray, Coca-Cola and Andeavor (then Tesoro) to scale up and commercialize the Bioforming process. Andeavor, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum, then acquired Virent in September 2016.

Other companies working on bio-PX processes include Gevo and Anellotech. Last October, Anellotech announced it had started planning the design and engineering for a commercial-scale plant based on its Bio-TCat process, which produces fuels and chemicals from non-food biomass.

Gevo started up a demonstration plant for bio-PX in Silsbee, Texas, USA, in September 2013, supplying test quantities to Toray Industries for use in fibers and films.

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