We’ve travelled to Dusseldorf to learn more about Succinity, a joint venture between BASF and Corbion Purac, is dedicated to the production and commercialisation of succinic acid, Succinity, which is based on renewable resources. Succinic acid is a key biochemical molecule. Nature employs it for energy metabolism in plants, human and animal tissue. In the chemical industry it also plays an important role, being a key intermediate component for various products and processes, the sort of multi-purpose compound that chemists refer to as a platform chemical.
But it will soon be available manufactured from renewable raw materials, so industry will no longer need petroleum or natural gas for this “all-rounder” among chemicals. It was back in 2004 that the U.S. Department of Energy established that “succinic acid is one of the top 12 building block chemicals that can be produced from renewable resources.” The tools used for this route of manufacturing succinic acid are bacteria or yeasts in a bio-reactor known as a fermenter. Billions of these little helpers transform biomass, starch or sugar into the desired acid. Viewed chemically, the biobased compound is absolutely identical with the product manufactured conventionally, so it has the same properties and applications. And its natural raw material basis is highly flexible.
Many market opportunities for bio-based succinic acid – a major application is its use in biodegradable plastics, which are suitable for making carrier bags and garbage bags, single-use dishes, packaging film or bottles. Even beyond these disposable items, however, there are attractive options in automotive engineering, nonwovens and fibers, as well as sportswear, furniture and even the construction industry. This explains why the chemical industry is keenly interested in biobased succinic acid, and looks set for further promising developments in the future.
Over to Markus Hummelsberger, Marketing & Sales Director at Succinity to tell us more.
Luke Upton (LU): Thanks very much for the time today Succinity is a joint venture between BASF and Corbion Purac, how did the partnership come together?
Markus Hummelsberger (MH): Not a problem Luke, BASF and Corbion Purac have been conducting research on bio-based succinic acid under a joint development agreement for several years, before registering Succinity GmbH in August 2013. Our co-operation combines the know-how of BASF, the largest and most experienced global producer of chemical intermediates, and Corbion, a leading provider of bio-based food ingredients and bio-chemicals.
LU: So what is driving the growth in demand for bio-based succinic acid?
MH: The growth in demand for bio-based succinic acid (BBSA) is driven by the growing need for bio-based building blocks in our target applications, specifically polybutylene succinate (PBS) and polyester polyols for PUR and coatings resins are all very promising applications.
LU: Who are some of your biggest customers and what are they using it for?
MH: We generally do not disclose customer names. However, we are supplying product to a range of chemical companies, such as producers of PBS, polyester polyols and coatings resins. We are selling Succinity Biobased Succinic Acid to customers worldwide.
LU: And what impact does the continuing low cost of oil on your part of the business?
MH: High oil prices and the volatility of fossil raw material prices in general can be a motivating factor for some customers for exploring BBSA, for others it has reduced the motivation to explore BBSA. But the impact of the oil prices on the competitiveness of BBSA is limited as sugar prices have dropped significantly in the last year as well.
Our customers, furthermore, take a broader view on the investigation of bio-based materials than just looking at a short-term cost/kg comparison. Materials based on bio-based succinic acid create added value by delivering the same or even a better performance in a more sustainable way. PBS is a good example of a polyester which combines functionality with bio-renewability and provides a real and workable alternative to petro-based plastics in many application fields, such as for example food packaging.
LU: And to conclude, what would you like the next five years to deliver for Succinity?
MH: The successful start-up of our first commercial plant in Montmel, Spain in 2014 was a major milestone for Succinity. Since then, we have made significant progress in our market development efforts. Our next target is to support the growth of this market to the extent to justify a second, larger plant for bio-based succinic acid. The decision on this investment will be made when we feel that the market is ready for this capacity increase.
LU: Many thank for the time today Markus, looking forward to hearing more on the latest developments.
For more on Succinity visit www.succinity.com