Genomatica announced successful production of pound quantities of butadiene made from renewable feedstocks. This achievement confirms the technical viability of Genomatica’s bio-based manufacturing process for the dedicated, on-purpose production of butadiene. Butadiene is one of the seven basic chemicals at the core of the chemical industry and is an important ingredient used to make products such as tires, engineering polymers and latex products. Global demand is forecasted to be over 20 bln pounds in 2011, or approximately US$40 bln based on June 2011 prices.
Genomatica’s accomplishment comes at a time of increasing scarcity and rising costs of C3 and C4 chemical products worldwide – major chemicals with three or four carbon atoms, respectively, such as propylene and butadiene. Butadiene is primarily produced today as a by-product of ethylene cracking. Increased availability of natural gas, especially in North America, has contributed to a growing spread between the price of crude oil and natural gas. This dynamic has made lighter feedstocks derived from natural gas a more attractive input for ethylene cracking operations, compared to heavier feedstocks derived from crude oil. The shift toward greater use of these lighter feedstocks has resulted in the production of significantly less C3 and C4 chemicals. Decreasing supplies and the lack of current options for on-purpose butadiene production have resulted in a many-fold increase in the price of butadiene, which affects consumers downstream with rising prices of butadiene-based products.
Genomatica’s processes enable the production of the exact same chemicals, like butadiene, that are used in worldwide supply chains, but made using renewable feedstocks and with the potential for better economics and a smaller environmental footprint. In the case of butadiene, this new technology and process design offers a renewable option for the dedicated on-purpose production of this important supply-constrained chemical with what we expect should be significantly reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum-based processes.