Up till now only obtained industrially using fossil sources, Butanediol (BDO) has a vast range of applications from elastic textile fibres to plastic components for the automotive, cell phone and computer industries, and from engineering thermoplastics, paints and coatings to fully compostable plastics for food packaging, tableware, coffee cups/pods and the collection of organic waste. It is estimated that the BDO market, now worth approximately 3.5 billion per year with a volume of 1.5 million tonnes, will grow to more than 6.5 billion and 2.7 million tonnes by 2020.
Butnow Italian biochemical company Novamont have this month opened the worlds first plant for the production of butanediol on an industrial scale directly from sugars and through the use of bacteria. The plant starts production after conversion of an abandoned chemical site, thanks to an investment of over 100 million and a partnership with California-based biotech leader Genomatica. The new facility near Rovigo on Italys Po River delta will produce 30,000 tonnes/year of low-impact Bio-Butanediol, with savings of more than 50% in terms of CO2 emissions.
Using technology developed by Genomatica, the California-based leader in the field of bioengineering, Novamont has developed a biotechnological platform which takes sugars and transforms them into bio-butanediol through the action of suitably engineered e.coli type bacteria.
The combination of Novamonts ( @)industrial research and know-how and the revolutionary Genomatica technology has given rise to a product which will be produced on an industrial scale: 30,000 tonnes per year when fully operational, with CO2 savings of at least 50%. The environmental sustainability of Novamonts bio-butanediol is also enhanced by the energy efficiency of the Bottrighe Mater-Biotech plant, which has been designed to reutilise the by-products derived from the process in order to satisfy the plants energy requirements, thereby optimising the entire process life cycle.
But, when put into the context of the Novamont integrated bio-refinery project, the scope of this innovation goes beyond the availability of new technologies, bio-based products and the contribution these can make to the need to decarbonise planet Earth.
As Catia Bastioli ( @)Novamont CEO, pictured left at the opening descibes it: Mater-Biotech is just one facet of a system of world leader, interconnected plants to be seen as a formidable accelerator, a way of multiplying opportunities in the bioplastics and chemicals fields for the producers of raw materials, for the producers of finished products, for new entrepreneurial initiatives, for the creation of jobs, and for those who are concerned about planning a future with greater environmental and social sustainability.
With the opening of the Mater-Biotech plant, Novamont now adds a fundamental element to its model for a bioeconomy which it interprets as the regeneration of local areas, taking over abandoned factories or sites in serious difficulty and regenerating them as true and proper infrastructures of the bioeconomy.
Today, Novamont has revitalised 6 such sites and has fine-tuned 4 world-leading technologies which can be multiplied in accordance with its model for a bio-refinery integrated with the local area, in which technologies and products are developed to provide concrete solutions to large-scale problems such as the recycling of organic waste.
Mater-Biotech, together with the Novamont research centres in Piana di Monte Verna and Novara, represents a formidable platform for industrial biotechnologies, from basic research to flagship plants, concludes Bastioli, a major opportunity to create competitive edge in partnership with other entities in the academic and industrial sectors.
When fully operational, the Bottrighe plant will employ around seventy people directly, plus another 180-200 considering also the supply chain.
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