Renewable chemical plant to open in Ontario

29 Aug 2011

US renewable chemistry company BioAmber is to open a new biosuccinic plant in Ontario, Canada to produce biobased succinic acid, a renewable, non‐toxic specialty chemical that can be modified to create items such as biodegradable coffee cup lids, automotive parts and greener plastics.

Historically known as spirit of amber, the white, crystallised, non-toxic succinic acid -created by fermenting sugars – can also be used to make food ingredients, disposable cutlery, flavours and fragrances, cosmetics, engine coolants, salts that melt ice and snow and plastics used in durable goods when modified.

With chemical companies now under increasing political and regulatory pressure forced to rethink their carbon footprint and sustainability strategies, BioAmber said today that its subsidiary Bluewater Biochemicals will open the US$80m biosuccinic acid plant in Sarnia, Ontario in 2013.

The building of the US$80m demonstration plant will begin in October of this year, with the first phase aiming to create 150 construction jobs and 40 full-time jobs. More jobs are expected to come on-stream down the line as capacity increases at the plant.

The initial capacity of the Sarnia plant will be 17,000 tonnes, but BioAmber is planning to double capacity by 2014 through the introduction of a next‐generation yeast that it is developing with Cargill.

BioAmber is also planning to produce 1,4‐butanediol (BDO) on the site, using technology licensed from DuPont that coverts succinic acid to BDO, a chemical with a US$4bn existing market, according to the company. BDO is used chemical for a range of application including the production of engineering plastics, lycra (spandex), fibres and solvents.

Ontario and Canadian ministries provided BioAmber with CAD$35m in grants and loans to locate in Sarnia. Support was secured from the Ontario Ministry for Economic Development and Trade (MEDT), Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) and the Canadian Sustainable Chemistry Alliance.

Ontario’s clean agenda

“Sarnia has tremendous potential as a sustainable chemistry cluster. The unique combination of chemical infrastructure, skilled labor, educational facilities, competitive transportation costs and proximity to some of Canada’s richest agricultural land makes Sarnia an excellent choice,” said Mike Hartmann, executive vice-president of BioAmber, today.

Bio-hubs worldwide

In August, BASF and Purac announced that they were entering a joint venture to set up a 25,000-tonne fermentation plant for the production of bio-based succinic acid near Barcelona, Spain, by 2013.

Elsewhere, PTT Group and Mitsubishi Chemical formed a 50/50 joint venture in July (PTT MCC Biochem Co) to build Thailand’s first sugar-based bio-plastic manufacturing plant by 2014. When operational the plant will produce bio-based succinic acid and polybutylene succinate from sugar.

More on BioAmber

BioAmber currently produces and sells biobased succinic acid at a 3,000-tonne capacity plant built at a cost of €21m (about $27m) in Pomacle, France.

The company also raised US$45m in Series-B financing to accelerate the commercialisation of succinic acid and polybutylene succinate, a renewable, biodegradable polymer back in May 2011.

It has partnerships with DuPont Applied Biosciences, Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Chemical and has offices and research labs in Minneapolis, Minnesota, an office in Montreal, plus a sales office in Shanghai, China.


Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic