European Firms to Develop Bio-isobutene Chain

16.05.2017 -

Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU), a public-private partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), is backing a new project in which French renewable petrochemicals specialist Global Bioenergies in collaboration with Swiss chemical producers Clariant (Muttenz and Ineos (Rolle / Switzerland) will try to develop a new value chain for renewable bio-based isobutene. All three of the companies are technology leaders in associated fields.

The project, part of the European HORIZON 2020 program for research and innovation,  will be launched on Jun. 1 and will conclude 48 months later. The aim is to learn how to convert currently poorly valorized residual wheat straw into second- generation renewable isobutene for use as a feedstock to produce lubricants, rubbers, solvents, plastics or fuels.

Starting point of the development chain is Clariant’s Sunliquid process, which converts straw into glucose- and xylose-rich hydrolysates. Global Bioenergies will undertake to ferment the straw hydrolysates to produce bio-isobutene, and Ineos will convert the bio-isobutene to oligomers.

To underpin the work, French engineering firm TechnipFMC and IPSB will conduct preliminary engineering on a hydrolysate-to-isobutene plant, which will be integrated with the straw-to-hydrolysate plant. The Energy Institute at the University of Linz in Austria will assess the sustainability and environmental benefits of the technology link-up.




The program covers a total budget of €16.4 million. Altogether €9.8 million will be provided by the BBI-JU, the remainder by the participants. Global Bioenergies will receive funding amounting to €4.4 million for its R&D activities at its Evry site, its pilot plant in Pomacle (both in France) and its demonstration plant in Leuna, Germany. The company recently scaled up the process for gaseous isobutene produced through fermentation at Leuna.  



The demonstration plant’s new purification unit has already been approved by Germany’s principal technical certification authority, and delivery of the first batches of isobutene to partners for testing is due to begin in June CEO Marc Delcourt said  one of the company’s major objectives for 2017 will be to come closer to commercial performances at Leuna.