By Gary Thomas
Specialty chemical company Rhodia, a member of the Solvay Group, and Cobalt Technologies, a developer of advanced bio-based chemicals, have announced that they will jointly develop and operate a biobutanol demonstration plant in Brazil. In Latin America, Brazilian bagasse and other non-food feedstock will be converted into bio n-butanol using Cobalt's technology. Butanol is employed as an industrial chemical in solvents, paints, adhesives and inks.
Bob Mayer, CEO of Cobalt Technologies, stated that they are pleased to work with Rhodia to develop the first commercial-scale biorefinery to produce biobutanol using bagasse as a feedstock. Mayer added that this joint venture will help them to succeed in the Latin American market.
Rhodia and Cobalt will be building and operating the biobutanol demonstration facility, which will corroborate Cobalt's technology and its capacity to combine with present sugar mills in Brazil. Construction will begin in August 2012 and they will start integration testing by moving to the mill site in early 2013. By mid 2013, operational testing at the demonstration facility plant is likely to be completed.
Vincent Kamel, President of Rhodia Coatis Business Unit, stated that they are convinced that over the long term, Cobalt's technology will deliver unprecedented benefit, thereby improving their development plans towards their Augeo range of biosourced solvents. He added that they are looking forward to capitalize on the market opportunity for bio n-butanol in Latin America and other countries while working closely with Cobalt.
Both the companies in the past nine months investigated opportunities for integrating existing sugar mills with Cobalt's technology. The feasibility phase validated the attractive economics and scalability of Cobalt's biomass processing and next-generation fermentation technology, and also the feasibility to work with local biomass in Brazil. These aspects prompted both the companies to sign the Term Sheet and strengthen their relationship.