Editorial Feature

Reducing Dependency on Petroleum-Derived Ingredients with Plant-Based Butylene Glycols

Image Credit: Avigator Fortuner/Shutterstock.com

Genomatica’s Brontide, a plant-based butylene glycol, brings green chemistry to the forefront ­in a ground-breaking synthesis that paves the way for lower GHG emissions, better economics and positive environmental impact.

Butylene glycol (butanediol) is a chemical ingredient used in self-care and cosmetic products as a viscosity-decreasing agent, solvent and stabilizer of active plant extracts.

The traditional source of butylene glycol is fossil fuels. It is produced by catalytic hydrogenation of acetaldehyde, an intermediate precursor. While the supply of acetaldehyde is on the decline, these petroleum sources may contain traces of a class of carcinogenic chemicals called polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Genomatica develops and commercializes a plant-based butylene glycol, using advanced biotechnology.

In a one-step production process, clean manufacturing and sustainability leader Genomatica’s research team has addressed the butylene glycol synthesis using a multi-pronged approach.

Renewable sugars are the source in the green synthesis for the world’s highest purity (99.7%) butylene glycol production in place of crude oil as feedstock.

Engineered bacteria, Escherichia coli, are used to ferment sugars from plant sources. E. coli is an ideal system for genetic engineering that changes the microorganism metabolically to produce the desired reaction and product.

Introducing Brontide™ naturally sourced butylene glycol

Video Credit: Genomatica/YouTube.com

Conventional chemistry produces a 50:50 racemic mix of butylene glycol; the biological reaction is designed to provide only the R isomer of naturally sourced butylene glycol. This green synthetic pathway avoids the use of hazardous chemicals and is cheaper.

Compared to traditional production, Genomatica’s naturally sourced butylene glycol, Brontide® (IUPAC name: butane- 1,3-diol), has cut the greenhouse gas emission by 51%, nearly 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year and eliminated the use of 50,000 tons of acetaldehyde (a carcinogenic and mutagenic ingredient used in conventional production methods).

Nearly 50% of the primary energy used in Genomatica’s fermentation process is from renewable resources. According to the Speciality Chemicals Magazine, Feb 2020 issue: “Formulators incorporating Brontide can highlight its natural origins and smaller environmental footprint as marketable advantages, which they can support with real data in the form of the LCA and conformity to the ISO 16128 definition of a natural ingredient with a natural index of 1.”

The plant-based butylene glycol, a clear odorless and high-performance ingredient used in a variety of personal products, does not contain any detectable levels of heavy metals.

Butylene glycol is also used in a range of products such as plastics, paper and resins, packaging and printing inks, paints and coatings, flavors, and food and beverage. Other uses of butylene glycol are as a solvent for flavoring agents and as a hypoglycaemic agent for diabetics.

Leading Green Chemistry Solutions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with ACS’s Green Chemistry Institute, awarded the prestigious 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Award for Brontide, recognizing Genomatica as a leader in innovative green chemistry.

As per the pollution prevention act of EPA, it is essential to identify source reduction as a vital tool for protecting human health and the environment. This innovation has strengthened Genomatica's leadership in sustainable processes for bio-based chemicals and aided to compete in the industry by helping cost reduction and bringing in a new marketable product.

Genomatica has already commercialized processes for better plastics, spandex and personal care products; its research is currently focused on nylon and household cleaners.

Genomatica’s partner companies include Covestro, Cargill, Novamont, Aquafil, ExxonMobil, Clariant, and BASF. The market for butylene glycol alone is around 50,000 tons/year or over $200 million.

Brontide is manufactured by EW-Biotech, which is based in Germany. Brands such as Farmacy, Peter Thomas Roth, Lady of Beasts, and Custom Essence have quickly adopted Brontide, the natural butylene glycol, to create more natural personal care products.

Find out more about physical properties testing equipment available on the market today.

Biotechnology for a Clean Future

Genomatica is harnessing synthetic biology to sustainably remake higher-performance key ingredients for everyday products and materials through the power of clean manufacturing, using plants and waste rather than fossil fuels or other non-sustainable sources such as palm oil.

More than half a billion tons of oil per year are used to produce chemicals, including plastics. This amounts to more than one-eighth of the total global oil consumption.

The petrochemical industry’s market value is slated to exceed US$758 billion by 2022. To meet the SDGs by 2030 and to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, the world needs to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

It is essential to invest in low-carbon and renewable alternatives for production, technology design and processes. Low GHG emissions, clean air and water, environmental health, better economic justice, financial equities societies and sustainable development are synergized with greener pathways as we phase out fossil fuels.

This process for naturally sourced butylene glycol synthesis is safe and sustainable; bio-based production helps build a clean future in the mainstream chemical industry. Biotechnology/bioengineering contributes to addressing sustainability challenges by opting out of fossil-based chemicals.

Primary advantages over conventional methods are: produce novel chemicals, require milder reaction conditions, make specific enantiomers or isomers, avoid undesired by-products, and use bio-feedstocks or agriculture residues.

Read more: Fuel And Lubricant Testing Equipment

The Market for Plant-Based Butylene Glycol

Plant-based butylene glycol is also catering to new-age consumers who are looking for greener options.

Naturally sourced butylene glycol is a multi-functional ingredient used for moisture retention, improved texture, antimicrobial properties and as a solubilizer for plant extracts, flavor and fragrances.

Butylene glycol is also a popular product in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and personal care, food products, and the plastic industry. It is used as a chemical intermediate in the industrial manufacture of some solvents, plastics, thermoplastics polyesters, spandex fibers, adhesives, plasticizers, and polyurethanes.

The global market of butylene glycol is expected to grow to USD 178.5 million by 2024. The production of butylene glycol by fermentation by bacterial action (including other microorganisms) goes as far back as pre-dating 1933. However, Genomatica is now providing access to an efficient large-scale high-purity compound on the field with natural butylene glycol.


Non-renewable crude oil and natural gas are the resources of the parent or intermediate chemicals used in the manufacturing industry.

The bioengineering industry promises to replace the petroleum-based industry for widely used products.

Responsible leaders opt for natural and sustainable choices in the face of global warming, avoiding deforestation, displacement of animals and destruction of biodiversity, water-abuse, and problems with local economies.

With this plant-based butylene glycol, Genomatica hopes to reduce our dependency on petroleum-derived products and provide us with a better alternative, spurring towards sustainable and renewable growth.

References and Further Reading

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), Butylene glycol. [Online] Available at: https://drugs.ncats.io/drug/3XUS85K0RA (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Butylene glycol (2018) The Derm Review. [Online] Available at: https://thedermreview.com/butylene-glycol/ (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Green Chemistry Challenge: 2020 Greener Synthetic Pathways Award. Genomatica, Biobased Butylene Glycol. [Online] Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Genomatica, Genomatica Celebrates Third EPA Award Win with Brontide™ Natural Butylene Glycol. [Online] Available at: https://www.genomatica.com/genomatica-celebrates-third-epa-award-win-with-brontide/ (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Ellis I. Fulmer, et al. (1933) Production of 2,3-Butylene Glycol by Fermentation. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry, 25 (7), 798-800. doi.org/10.1021/ie50283a019

1,3-Butylene Glycol Market by Product, by Application, by Geography - Global Market Size, Share, Development, Growth and Demand Forecast, 2013-2024 (2018) ReporterLinker. [Online] Available at: https://www.reportlinker.com/p05586781/1-3-Butylene-Glycol-Market-by-Product-by-Application-by-Geography-Global-Market-Size-Share-Development-Growth-and-Demand-Forecast.html?utm_source=PRN (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Brontide. [Online] Available at: https://brontidebg.com/ (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Genomatica: Brontide - Safety datasheet. Available at: https://brontidebg.com/ (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Genomatica: Brontide – Safety data sheet, Europe. Available at: https://brontidebg.com/ (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Biobased breakthroughs (Feb 2020). Speciality Chemicals Magazine. [Online] Available at: https://www.genomatica.com/wp-content/uploads/How-biotech-is-delivering-for-cosmetics-surfactants-fragrances.pdf (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Ögmundarson, Ó., et al. (2020) Addressing environmental sustainability of biochemicals. Nat Sustain 3, 167–174 doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0442-8.

Phys Org. (2017). Using waste biomass for the sustainable production of industrial chemicals. [Online] Available at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-biomass-sustainable-production-industrial-chemicals.html (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Kyle Huston , Genomatica. (2019). From Crop to Cream. [Online] Available at: https://www.happi.com/issues/2019-10-01/view_features/from-crop-to-cream/ (Accessed on July 22, 2020).

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Dr. Ramya Dwivedi

Written by

Dr. Ramya Dwivedi

Ramya has a Ph.D. in Biotechnology from the National Chemical Laboratories (CSIR-NCL), in Pune. Her work consisted of functionalizing nanoparticles with different molecules of biological interest, studying the reaction system and establishing useful applications.


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  1. Daniela Minch Daniela Minch United States says:

    As a consumer and person who has been in the beauty industry as well as pharmaceutical, I commend you for using sustainable means to create Brontide! I hope the use of this product grows as well as awareness. Excellent article Dr. Dwivedi!

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