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Issue 01/2016

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Automotive Foam Basics: Public Procurement

Materials Making

Materials Making Levulinic Acid happen A new (?) building block not only for bioplastics No. Levulinic acid (LA) is not exactly a new building block or better a new platform chemical. It has been known of since 1840. “Everybody knows the benefits of levulinic acid, but few are using it yet – because it has been too expensive so far”, Maxim Katinov, CEO of Caserta, Italy based GFBiochemicals told bioplastics MAGAZINE during a plant visit in early December. GFBiochemicals is the first and only company to produce levulinic acid at commercial scale directly from biomass. The 10,000 tonnes/annum commercial-scale production plant in Caserta started production in July 2015. The plant uses new and modified conversion, recovery and purification technology owned by GFBiochemicals. The company also has offices in Milan, Italy and Geleen, the Netherlands. In-house application and R&D is supported by a highly skilled and prolific management team with decades of experience in innovation, production and business development of biobased chemicals. “We have the best people and they are passionate about what they do”, as Maxim proudly told us. “Many of them left leading world renowned chemical companies in the Netherlands to join a startup“, he added. Levulinic acid is a biobased platform chemical with applications in the chemical and biofuel sectors. “Levulinic acid is an essential building block for a green future,” as Marcel van Berkel, CCO of GFBiochemicals pointed out. In 2004, the US Department of Energy (DoE) identified LA as one of the 12 most important platform chemicals [1]. Levulinic acid for affordable prices Fundamentally lower price ranges are now possible for derivatives using GFBiochemicals technology. “We don’t need outputs of 150,000 tonnes to be successful,” said Maxim Katinov. “We can do it economically with three, five or ten thousand tonnes. And so we can produce and deliver levulinic acid for prices the market can afford”. The current price level is at about USD 4 – 5 per kg, but this company is targeting substantially lower prices, “in the range of one Dollar, when we reach maturity and produce at large scale,” Marcel van Berkel commented. Possible bioplastic applications Among the possible applications for LA we find quite a number of biopolymer-products or pre-products for bioplastics such as Me-BDO (Methyl butanediol for biobased polyesters or as building block for polyurethanes), Gamma valerolactone, an amino acid to make Nylons or specialty acrylates, DPA (Diphenolic acid to replace BPA, Bisphenol A, in Epoxies or Polycarbonate. BPA is cheaper but toxic), Co-nutrients during PHB production with metabolically engineered strains, and many more. Markets for levulinic acid and its derivatives include furthermore green solvents, coatings and resins, plasticizers, but also flavours and fragrances, personal care and pharmaceutical products, agrochemicals, fuel additives and biofuels. LA from renewable resources Traditionally levulinic acid is produced from petroleum via butane/benzene. “The first biobased routes went through furfural and furfuryl alcohole”, said Aris de Rijke, Director Technology & Engineering. “We however, go a direct route from biomass in a continuous process. Today we are using industrial corn starch, but in the long run we aim at using wood waste or other cellulosic waste streams such as straw or bagasse”. And a share of the energy used to run the process comes from char, a by-product of the LA-production from biomass. All in all, levulinic acid is a product of which we can expect interesting developments. Or maybe even “the transition to a new economy”, as Maxim Kativov said. MT [1] Pre-treatment Reactor Flash Energy recovery Cellulosic Biomass Steam Proprietary technology Solid/liquid separatrion Product recovery & concentration Final purification Biochar Steam O CH 3 HO O Levulinic acid 20 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/16] Vol. 11

MARCH 30 – APRIL 1, 2016 Orlando World Center Marriott A Collaborative Biopolymers Forum for the Global Ingeo Community @NatureWorks #ITR2016

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