The chemical market
By adapting a tried and tested industrial biotechnology process, Solvert has created a commercially viable supply chain and process technology. These processes can also be implemented in developed countries, and provide existing markets with new products while resolving the issues around waste management.
Solvert chose 1-butanol as the primary target product because it has an established chemical market ($4.5 billion per annum) that, in certain applications, is demanding a renewable alternative to the petrochemical-derived product. 1-Butanol is currently manufactured by a number of the world’s leading chemical companies (Dow, BASF and Eastman) by gasifying propylene and using the resultant syngas in the OXO alcohol process. In the first half of the 20th century, 1-butanol was manufactured using a fermentation process. A number of companies, for example HC Sucroquimica (HCS) in Brazil, have re-commercialised the ABE process leveraging their feedstock knowledge and facility integration (Figure 1).
HCS is a family-run sugar refinery in Brazil that has an integrated sugar production plant and ethanol distillery, and in 2006-2007 constructed a modern ABE facility using sugar cane juice as feedstock. The plant operates on a seasonal basis, supplying renewable 1-butanol and acetone for Brazil’s domestic chemical market.
Production today is focused on sugar cane juice, but HCS is already developing their second generation process to use the surplus bagasse from their sugar refinery.